Top-ranked North Hall is just one from wrapping up the Class 3A baseball state title at Coolray Field.
On Saturday, North Hall plated eight runs in the fifth inning, which all started when Luke Erickson and Tate Brooks were hit by a pitch to open the frame – the second that hit of the helmet of the Trojans catcher – and they cashed in with three run-scoring hits and a 13-1 win against No. 2 Franklin County (35-4).
After that, the floodgates opened for the Trojans (32-5) in Game 1 of the best-of-three state championship series.
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is to follow Saturday night. If there’s a split, Game 3 will be at Coolray Field on Monday in Lawrenceville.
Jace Bowen had his third single of the game, which plated two North Hall runs, after Jay Johnson put down a perfect bunt to load the bases in the big fifth inning. Pitcher Jaret Bales followed with a grounder that the charging runner beat to the plate after an attempted force out on an underhanded throw from pitcher Lawson Gailey.
Then, a wild throw down to first base, on the same play, scored another run.
Left fielder Bradford Puryear and Hudson Barrett tacked on run-scoring singles in the fifth inning for the Trojans.
On the mound, Bales was dominating, throwing his third consecutive complete game in the postseason. The junior right-hander retired the first four batters he faced before allowing a one-out single to CJ Blackwell for the Lions.
Bales got out of the second inning without any damage, then pitched around a hard-hit fly ball for the first out in the third inning.
A fourth-inning, lead-off walk from Gailey for Franklin County was nullified when he was picked off by Bales’ throws back to first base.
North Hall got on the board in the first inning with Bales’ RBI single, after Bowen reached on a two-out hit.
North Hall catcher Tate Brooks led off the game with a hard-hit ball to the left-field warning track for an out, and did the same in the fifth inning.
In the sixth inning, Bales added a run-scoring triple to make the score 10-0.
Cooper Helton had a run-scoring triple for the Trojans to the right-field wall later in the inning.
Bowen led North Hall at the plate with three singles and a walk in his fourth plate appearance. Bales and Barrett each had three RBIs.