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North Hall rallies late, holds off West Hall 6-4

Trojans' Smith finishes a double short of cycle

POSTED: March 20, 2014 11:10 p.m.

North Hall’s goal on Thursday was to shrug off a frustrating loss from the previous night and get back to winning form.

Done and done.

Highlighted by Micah Strickland’s go-ahead two-run double, the Trojans scored three runs in the sixth inning and rallied to defeat West Hall 6-4 in Oakwood.

Andrew Smith was a double short of the cycle, going 3 for 4 with two runs and three RBIs, and Josh Hammond pitched a complete game to earn the victory on the mound for North Hall  (6-4, 4-1 Region 7-AAA).

Suddenly, Wednesday’s surprising 2-1 loss to Dawson County doesn’t sting quite as much.

“Our focus was not on Dawson tonight — it was on West Hall,” Trojans coach Trent Mongero said. “We knew if we looked past West Hall, we could easily take a loss. It helped us to focus in on what we had to do tonight.”

The win gives North Hall its second victory over West Hall (7-3, 3-2) this season and helps the Trojans, who currently sit third in the region standings, separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Buford and White County remain ahead of them with unbeaten region records.

North Hall can even its series with Dawson County tonight, when the Trojans play for the third day in a row. They start a series with first-place Buford on Monday.

“We have to play hard (today),” Smith said. “We have to get back at Dawson.”

After his performance Thursday, Smith appears more than capable of doing that.

North Hall’s leadoff hitter ripped a solo home run to open the game, then hit a two-run triple in the second inning to tie the game 3-3. He singled in the fourth, and walked in the sixth.

Smith simply getting on base in the sixth was essential to the Trojans’ rally. He darted to third while McCoy Savage reached on an error at first, and Strickland hit the go-ahead double on the next at-bat.

“We had been slow the whole night and didn’t have a lot of energy,” Smith said. “I got on, McCoy got on and we needed a big hit. Micah Strickland stepped up and gave us the big hit. It finally gave us some energy.”

Stephen Murray (2 for 3) doubled in Lincoln Hewett three at-bats later to give North Hall an insurance run.

Smith came back up again in the seventh with another chance to secure the cycle, but grounded out.

“It escalated in the dugout and it was on my mind a little bit, but I was trying not to do too much,” he said. “Just get on base and use my speed to get into scoring position so the guys later in the lineup could get me in.”

Hammond did the rest for North Hall, not allowing a run despite pitching with runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings.

The junior only struck out only two hitters and gave up 12 hits, but surrendered only one run after the Spartans’ three-run first inning.

“Josh is not a strikeout pitcher — we know the ball is going to be put in play,” Mongero said. “By throwing strikes, I think his pitch count was extremely low for a seven-inning ball game. I don’t even think he got to 80. That shows how efficient he was.”

Michael Cronic and Will Simmons each delivered RBI singles and Zach English (2 for 4) scored on a North Hall error in the first inning to give West Hall an early 3-1 lead.

Cronic, the Spartans’ starting pitcher, was ejected from the game for a home plate collision later in the inning, forcing Zack Collins to take over on the mound.

Collins was the most successful West Hall pitcher of the night, allowing no runs and five hits with four strikeouts over four innings of work. He earned some run support in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Cameron Johnson (3 for 4) singled to score English to give the Spartans a brief 4-3 lead before North Hall’s rally in the sixth.

Collins also had a solid day at the plate, going 3 for 3, but didn’t get past first base.

Cam Warner took the loss on the mound for West Hall after entering in the sixth inning and closing out the game for the Spartans, who visit Banks County tonight.


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