Trevor Flow may field a predominantly young and inexperienced North Hall baseball team this season, but there is no denying this first-year skipper also inherits a resilient bunch.
It certainly showed on a chilly Tuesday night under the lights of Jody Davis Field in Gainesville.
In a game where so many things went against the Trojans, they overcame the adversity to twice come from behind to top Fannin County in walk-off fashion, 8-7, in extra innings.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, Jackson Dyer (2 for 4, 3 RBI) recorded the game-clinching RBI-single to lift North Hall in the first of this three-game region series.
Charlie Erickson came in relief of senior ace Reese Olson in the top of the sixth to toss 2 2/3 innings of solid pitching with one strikeout and earn the win for North Hall.
The triumph itself was hard-earned for the defending Class 3A state champion Trojans (9-3, 4-0 Region 7-3A), who despite committing six errors and leaving seven runners stranded — including two in the bottom of the seventh — rattled off their seventh-consecutive win on the young season.
“I was more proud of that, (the fact) they didn’t give up and they didn’t let the adversity bite them,” Flow said. “Our guys competed and competed through the errors. You know, Reese was on the mound, and we made mistakes and he had to get out of it early. We had guys come in, Charlie Erickson who hadn’t thrown all year, and competed. I’m super proud of them for doing that.”
Fannin County (7-5, 2-2) showed why this matchup has now been decided by a walk-off for the third time in the last two seasons at Jody David Field. The Rebels found ways to rattle the cage of Georgia Tech signee Olson (7 strikeouts, six hits allowed) and twice lead in this game, capitalizing on a string of North Hall mistakes in the process. The Rebels scored two runs in the top of the third, and then three in the top of the sixth to take their second lead of the night.
Chandler Kendall (2 for 4, two runs scored, RBI) and Gabe Buchanan (3 for 5, two runs scored, RBI) combined for five of Fannin County’s seven hits. Of the seven runs North Hall’s Olson gave up in his 6 2/3 innings of work, only two were earned.
“They’ve got some baseball players over there,” Flow said of Fannin County. “They weren’t intimidated with Reese coming in, hit the ball well and we expected that from them. It’s a yearly thing for them.”
The Rebels delivered the first blow in the top of the first as Chandler Kendall slid feet-first into home plate off a wild pitch with two outs. It came after a miscue between North Hall’s second and third baseman during a rundown, which Kendall was able to bypass the two North Hall infielders and beat the tag.
In the top of the third, Blake Rogers lined an RBI-single, while a dropped flyball at first base resulted in another Rebels’ score and a 3-0 lead.
Olson kickstarted the first rally for North Hall with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the third to cut it to 3-1. Caleb Clark (1 for 4, RBI), Olson (2 for 4, 2 RBI) and Dyer each got big-time hits to account for a bountiful bottom of the fourth, during which North Hall drove in four runs while loading the bases twice against Fannin County pitcher Garrett Rogers. Dyer smacked a low, hard-hit single past second base to score David Seavey (2 for 3, three runs scored) and Clark for a 6-4 lead.
Fannin County scored three runs off of two North Hall wild pitches and a Gabe Buchanan RBI single to shallow center-field, ending Olson’s bid for a complete-game showing.
The Trojans tied it up in the bottom-half of the frame as Dylan Wiley led off with a double down the third-base line. Wiley later advanced home on a two-base error, knotting the score at 7-all.
Erickson went on to retire the next six Fannin County batters, and Dyer delivered with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, plating David Seavey — who led off with a double — on a one-out single to left field to clear the dugout.
“We just had to go out there, put a couple of hits together and win the baseball game,” Flow said. “It wasn’t like the pressure was on us at that time, and we did exactly that.”
Both teams will wrap up the series in a Friday doubleheader later this week — weather permitting — beginning at 5:55 p.m. in Blue Ridge.