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High school baseball: North Hall falls to Lovett 5-4 in nine innings during deciding Game 3 of second-round playoff series
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Mark Swett of North Hall (12) pitches the ball on Friday, May 4, 2018, in Gainesville, during the final game in a three-game series in the second round Class 3A state baseball playoffs between North Hall and Lovett at Jody Davis Field. - photo by David Barnes

North Hall High baseball coach Trevor Flow was left feeling like his program let one get away against Lovett on Friday, May 4, even though it wasn’t just one mistake that sent the Trojans to a 5-4 loss in nine innings during the deciding third game of a second-round playoff series of the Class 3A state tournament in Gainesville.

“We had every opportunity to win today,” Flow said. “We made some mistakes and it seemed to compound on us.”

With the loss, the season for the defending state champions came to a close with a 24-7 mark and a Region 7-3A championship under the first-year coach Flow. 

Lovett brought the winning run across the plate in the second extra inning when with two outs, Evan McKown’s grounder prompted a fielding error by the Trojans and sent senior Peyton Ringer home to bring a close to a three-hour, back-and-forth game.

Despite the loss, Flow said his small group of seniors maintained the high standard for the program, which he hopes his expected returning players for 2019 will be able to replicate. 

“We lose three big seniors, but we always graduate some great seniors every year,” said Flow, who, before taking over as head coach, served for five years as an assistant under former coach Trent Mongero. “Those seniors we had this season left a great foundation for the program, which the underclassmen needed to see.”

Among the seniors graduating for the Trojans is Mark Swett, who threw six solid innings in Game 3 before giving way to senior catcher Charlie Erickson in relief. 

“I’m extremely proud of the way Mark pitched for us today,” Flow said. “He just kept battling all night.”

North Hall’s other senior is Georgia Tech signee Reese Olson, who played third base during Game 3 after going two innings on the mound in the series opener that the team lost, 11-1. 

“We had a lot of people doubting us this season, but these kids proved everyone wrong,” Flow said. “They deserve all the credit for everything the team accomplished this season.”

The season had many highlights for the Trojans, including a 15-game winning streak during the regular season and first-round playoff sweep against Hart County on April 27.

The second-round series went three games after the Trojans escaped with an exciting nine-inning, 7-6 win in the nightcap of Thursday’s doubleheader, thanks in large part to sophomore designated hitter Caden Bales’ pair of run-scoring doubles late in the game. 

However, during the rubber match, it was the Lions who had all the late-inning momentum. 

Trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Lovett plated a pair of runs with two outs when a routine infield grounder was bobbled by the Trojans. Lovett had a chance to win it in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Wyatt Nelson was tagged out at the plate by Bales after trying to stretch a leadoff triple into an inside-the-park home run. 

Once the game went to extra frames, Erickson remained steady on the mound by getting the heart of the Lovett lineup out in order on fly-ball outs in the eighth inning. 

Erickson ripped a two-run homer for the Trojans to make their lead 4-1 in the top of the sixth inning, after Lovett scored its first run in the bottom of the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly by Nelson. 

North Hall jumped up 2-0 in the top of the first inning after Caleb Clark narrowly beat the tag at second base for a leadoff double, then scored after sacrifice grounders from David Seavey and Olson. Erickson drew a first-inning walk and courtesy runner Wes Tadman scored when a grounder off the bat of Jackson Dyer drew a throw that went over the head of Lovett’s first baseman. 

Swett pitched around trouble in the second, third and fourth innings with an inning-ending double play. In the fourth inning, Swett struck out Lions catcher Drayton Foster, and a quick throw down to first from the catcher got the trailing runner out because he was halfway to second base. 

North Hall also squandered some opportunities after a good start to the game. In the third inning, the Trojans left the bases loaded after Lovett sent in left-handed reliever David Underwood. Then in the fourth inning, North Hall left two on the bags when Olson reached on a two-out double and then Erickson was hit by a pitch. 

“We didn’t have a very good approach at the plate against the soft-throwing lefty,” Flow said.

With the win, Lovett will travel to Southeast Bulloch for the state quarterfinals, starting with a doubleheader May 9 in Brooklet. Southeast Bulloch advanced with an 11-10 win against Worth County in Game 3 of its second-round series on Friday. 

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