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Baseball playoffs: North Hall keeps baseball season alive in second round with doubleheader split against Appling County
Game 3 of the second round playoff series will take place Thursday at Lynn Cottrell Stadium
North Hall's Jaret Bales (3) knocks a homer against Appling County in Game 2 of the second-round playoff series May 4, 2022 in Gainesville. - photo by Bill Murphy

North Hall’s Hunter Brooks said he eats, sleeps and breathes baseball. 

He also has a way of winning some of its most clutch games on the mound. 

Already trailing a game to Appling County in the second-round playoff series Wednesday, Brooks left no doubt that this best-of-three series would be stretched out to the deciding Game 3 on Thursday at Lynn Cottrell Stadium. 

After getting two early runs in Game 2 on a home run from Jaret Bales, Brooks took it from there in a complete-game shutout over the Pirates for a 4-0 win. 

“That’s what Hunter’s done all season, he gives us a chance to win,” North Hall coach Trevor Flow said. “His offspeed stuff was really working well. He throws a heavy ball and had good command of the strike zone.” 

Appling County won the first game 6-4 in nine innings. 

With the split Game 3 will decide which team moves on to the Class 3A state quarterfinals. First pitch is at 4 p.m. 

“It’s gonna be a dogfight,” North Hall senior shortstop Jace Bowen said. “We’re gonna have to come out there with passion and energy for all seven innings to win.”

With the season on the line for the defending Class 3A state champions, Flow said that junior Landon Lee will get the start on the mound for the Trojans (29-5). He’s thrown the third most innings this season for North Hall, its coach said. 

However, the work by Brooks on the mound to keep their season alive can’t be understated. 

While he said pitching in win-or-go-home situations is never easy, Brooks said he can muster the strength because of the confidence from his teammates. 

“I did what I did on the mound for the guys beside me and behind me on the field,” Brooks said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the team.”

Brooks also picked up the win last season in the deciding Game 3 of the state championship series against Franklin County. 

This showing in the second-round of the playoffs was nearly as good as his gutsy performance in the 2-1 win to claim the 2021 state title. 

With the season on the line Wednesday, Brooks allowed just three hits and five walks. 

“Hunter was amazing tonight,” Bowen said. 

After getting the early 2-0 lead, North Hall added two late runs. Ajay Jones drove in a run on a fielder’s choice, then senior left fielder Bradford Puryear connected on a run-scoring single. 

In addition to his home run, Bales, who threw 7 2/3 innings in Game 1, also had a double in the nightcap. 

In Game 1, North Hall started slow at the plate but still made it a thriller toward the end. 

Down 4-2 in the seventh inning, Bowen had a two-out walk to start the rally and Bales followed with an RBI double. After Puryear reached on a two-out throwing error to first, senior second baseman Luke Erickson had a clutch run-scoring hit to tie the game and would send it to extra innings. 

However, Appling County scored twice in the top of the ninth inning and the Trojans weren’t able to answer and keep the first game alive. 

The Trojans didn’t get their first hit of the game until Bowen had a one-out hit in the fourth inning. 

Then in the fifth inning, North Hall got on the board with a pair of runs, but left the bases loaded. 

With two outs and the bases loaded, Bowen drew a walk to score a run. Then, Bales was hit by a pitch to bring home the second run of the inning. 

Bales will be limited in his ability to pitch in Game 3, due to GHSA rules for a playoff series, which caps pitchers at 10 innings. 

However, Flow feels good about having left-hander Baker Dyer still fresh, after throwing just 1 1/3 innings of relief in Game 1. 

North Hall also has right-hander Landon Davis out of the bullpen, who hasn’t thrown yet in this series.

The winner of this series will advance to face Harlem in the quarterfinals, starting with a doublehaeder in another best-of-three series Tuesday.  

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