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Living in the moment: North Hall celebrates baseball state title, new championship rings with community gathering
North Hall baseball
North Hall High baseball players sign autographs during a community celebration for the Class 3A state champions Wednesday at Cottrell Field in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

North Hall baseball coach Trevor Flow went big on the state championship rings. 

His players certainly appreciate every bit of detail that went into the design. 

“I wouldn’t change anything about them,” junior shortstop and Class 3A state Player of the Year Jace Bowen said. “They’re pretty sweet.”

For the Trojans fourth-year coach, he wanted team members to have a bold token to remember the 2021 season, as they beat the second, third, fourth and fifth-ranked teams in the state tournament. 

These rings sure accomplished that goal. 

“We went a little above and beyond on these championship rings,” Flow said. “The kids were in awe when they saw them for the first time at the (Tuesday) team banquet.”

On Wednesday, his players for the Class 3A state-title winners and coaching staff were able to show off the sparkling addition to school history, during a community celebration at Lynn Cottrell Stadium. 

On their playing field, where so many fond memories were made en route to winning the second baseball title in school history, players, coaches, parents and fans were all able to cut loose and relish such a big part of school history. 

And it was a milestone marker for a program that is expected to return 8 of 9 starters in 2022 and will be a heavy favorite to repeat. 

“For me, this is the culmination of all the work that went into this season,” Flow said. “It’s one last chance to look back and celebrate.”

Included in that group of juniors with Bowen, at shortstop, are right-handed pitchers Jaret Bales and Eli Reece — who were both stellar all season. 

North Hall’s coach said his assistant coaches (Dacen Cash, Trey Pinson, Wes Crow, Chandler Newton and Tim Nunez) deserve a huge slice of appreciation for their effort. 

“My assistant coaches put in so much hard work, away from their families, behind the scenes, to get this team to a state championship,” Flow said. 

Bowen has been in a perpetual state of bliss since wining the baseball state title on May 24 at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.

“It’s great to see all the support from our community,” said Bowen, who scored the only run in the deciding Game 3 of the state championship series against Franklin County. “They’ve supported us the whole way through.”

Flow wanted the community gathering to be a time when younger kids could see how all the hard work paid off for his players this season. 

Players signed autographs. 

Items were raffled. 

And many stories were told amongst the North Hall program, which was light on varsity experience coming off the 2020 season that was shut down early because of the nation’s pandemic. 

The celebration was a memorable farewell for senior centerfielder Jay Johnson, who will continue his baseball career at Division-II Young Harris College. 

He’ll never forgot looking in the stands on the first night of the championship series, in Lawrenceville, and seeing North Hall fans numbering in the thousands who showed up to watch the first two games.

“The support we received was overwhelming,” said Johnson. “When we looked up in the stands before the doubleheader, we were all shocked that that many people showed up. This feels great to celebrate a state championship like this with the whole community involved.”

The highlights were vast and stories of heroics could be told about everyone who saw significant playing time in 2021 for North Hall. 

Bowen and Johnson both said they regularly reflect on those moments, with the rest of the team, that culminated with the state’s top prize. 

The conversation often starts and ends with stories of the state championship series. 

Bowen was one of the heroes in Game 3 — roping the sixth-inning triple and scoring the only run, then turning around with a remarkable diving stop on a grounder in the seventh inning to keep the tieing run from crossing the plate. 

Then there was the amazing start by junior Hunter Brooks on the mound in the winner-take-all third game. 

Light on pitching experience in the first four rounds of the postseason, Flow didn’t hesitate to give Brooks the ball with the state championship hanging in the balance. That day, Brooks went out and didn’t show the slightest bit of nerves, throwing 5 2/3 innings and allowing only five hits. 

“Hunter accepted the challenge for us,” Flow said. “He earned that opportunity.”

Before long, North Hall’s baseball program will turn its focus back to trying to repeat as state champions in a very difficult classification. 

But for one night, it was all about celebrating the state championship and flashing those beautiful new rings. 

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