North Hall used a tense extra-innings rally to keep its baseball season alive.
Down one game to Hart County, the second-ranked Trojans (26-5) scored three runs in the top of the ninth to win 8-5 and earn a split to force a deciding third game Thursday in Gainesville.
Hart County won the opener 2-0 in the second-round playoff series, behind a dominant complete-game showing from Will Dean, who allowed just four hits with nine strikeouts.
The deciding third game starts at 4 p.m. Thursday at Cottrell Stadium in Gainesville.
“I’m so proud of the way our guys battled and competed,” North Hall coach Trevor Flow said.
In the nightcap of Wednesday’s doubleheader, North Hall’s Baker Dyer roped a two-run double in the top of the ninth inning to add some insurance after the Trojans took the lead when Jace Bowen scored on a wild pitch.
Dyer was also the third man out of the bullpen for the Trojans and prevailed in a game that was trending in Hart County’s favor after it scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game at 5-5.
The Bulldogs had the would-be winning runner cut down at home plate in the seventh when Dean turned too wide around third base and tried to score on a single from Malachi Thomas.
In the ninth inning of Game 2, with the score knotted at 5-5, Bowen and Jaret Bales drew lead-off walks against Thomas and advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch.
That set the stage for Dyer’s big hit to keep the Trojans alive for another day.
Early in the game, North Hall jumped up 2-0 in the top of the first inning with an RBI single from Bradford Puryear and Bowen scored on a passed ball.
Jay Johnson added an RBI single for the Trojans in the fifth inning as they build what looked to be a comfortable 5-1 lead with Eli Reece pitching well on the mound.
However, the Bulldogs battled back with the four runs to tie it in the bottom of the sixth inning.
In the first game, North Hall had trouble manufacturing any offense against the hard-throwing Dean.
Cooper Helton and Puryear each had a double for the Trojans, while Tate Brooks and Bowen added a single.
The winner of Game 3 moves on to face Pierce County in the start quarterfinals, starting with a doubleheader next Tuesday.
In Game 1, Hart County scored both runs on a Peyton Powell homer against Jaret Bales in the second inning. Powell also had a pair of doubles for the Bulldogs.
Otherwise, Bales was strong on the mound, halting rallies by Hart County with the bases loaded in the third inning and two on in the fifth inning without any damage done.