LAWRENCEVILLE — Needing a spark in a scoreless game against Franklin County for the Class 3A championship, Trevor Flow turned to the one guy he knew would make something happen.
“I told Jace (Bowen) I needed him to give us a spark. He didn’t let me down.”
Bowen tripled into the right field corner on the second pitch of the sixth inning and would later score on a deep sacrifice fly to center from Bradford Puryear for the game’s only run as the Trojans held on for a nail-biting 1-0 win over the Lions on a scorching Monday afternoon at Coolray Field.
“Coach asked me to make a play and [Franklin starter Miles Dodd] had been pitching me inside so they told me to look there. I got a pitch inside and was able to turn on it,” Bowen said.
North Hall took the series, 2-1. On Saturday, the Trojans won the opening game 13-1 in six innings while Franklin County answered with a 3-1 win in Game 2 to even the series.
Flow wasn’t done, however, needing sparks. He called on ace Jaret Bales in the bottom of the sixth to take over for Hunter Brooks with two on and two out. Bales walked a batter to load the bases but would go on to record the final out in the seventh with the winning run at the plate to seal the Trojans’ second state title in four seasons (2017).
“Jaret came in and got the job done like he has so many times this year,” Flow said. “But the real key was Hunter. He hadn’t pitched in a month and to come out and put on a performance like that, what can you say.”
Brooks, who hadn’t pitched since the second round against Hart County, went 5 2/3 innings scattering five hits, walking none, and giving North Hall (33-6) more than they had anticipated.
“I struggled against Hart but I worked on my mechanics since then and I felt pretty confident coming into the game,” Brooks said. “I really wasn’t that nervous because I knew my team would have my back.”
While Bowen did score the game-winner, it was his defensive work in the sixth that was the biggest key to the victory. He snared a hot shot deep into the hole at short to keep a run from scoring two batters before Bales got out of the bases loaded jam.
“That was just a reaction play, really,” Bowen said. “I thought it might be big if Jaret got us out of the inning. He did and I was just glad I was able to make a play.
“Pitching and defense has been the key for us all year and it was again today. Hunter was awesome out there.”
North Hall was poised for a quick start in the first as Jay Johnson and Bowen both walked with one out. But Dodd struck out both Bales and Puryear to get out of the jam.
The Lions threatened in the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles by Lawson Gailey and AJ Peeples with one out. But Brooks got a pair of fly outs to get out of the early mess.
The Trojans' best early chance came in the third when Tate Brooks and Johnson singled with one out and moved to second and third on a groundout by Bowen. But Dodd got Bales to fly out to center to keep it scoreless.
After North Hall went 1-2-3 in the second, Brooks settled in from there. He went on to retire eight straight, and 16 of 20 batters into the sixth. Kayne Jinks singled in the second and was hit by a pitch in the fourth, and AJ Peeples and CJ Blackwell singled in the sixth.
Dodd also got into a groove, retiring eight of nine North Hall batters through the fifth with only Eli Reece reaching on an error in the fourth after Johnson’s single. Dodd went the distance allowing just three hits and fanned two.
But North Hall finally broke through in the sixth on Bowen’s fourth hit of the series and scored using their patented small-ball approach.
“I knew when (Bradford) hit it I was going to score,” Bowen said.
The Lions tried to answer right back in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases on two singles and a walk. But Bales got Chandler Coulter to pop to second to get out of the jam with the skinny one-run lead still in tact.
Bales hit JD Ginn to start the bottom of the seventh and he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. But Bales sealed the win and the series, getting Dee Oliver to fly out to center and Gainey popped to Reece at first to cap it.
“It’s just an incredible feeling,” Brooks said. "But I don't think we ever doubted we could be state champions."
“It’s surreal, really,” Bowen said. “But this is what we worked for since August and it’s just amazing.”