Great pitching by North Hall made for an impressive doubleheader sweep of Decatur to open the Class AAA state playoffs on Friday at Jody Davis Field.
Game 1 starter for the Trojans (26-2) Preston Graham was nearly perfect, striking out the first 15 hitters he faced in order as they won 10-0 in six innings. Then in Game 2, senior Colton Duttweiler racked up 10 strikeouts pitching another complete game to lock up the sweep with a 6-2 win.
The Trojans’ sweep also kept the pitching staff fresh. No. 3 starter Adam Kelly was not forced into action during the first round, in relief or in a starting role.
With the win, North Hall will face Franklin County in another best-of-three series starting Wednesday in Gainesville. Game time is still to be determined.
Graham kept Decatur off balance all through the day’s first game. He finished the game with 17 strikeouts, tying a school record by Chris Curtis that goes back nine years.
The only hit Graham allowed was in the top of the sixth inning when Liam Foskett reached out and ripped a single to right field, but was quickly picked off at first by Graham when the next hitter came to the plate. Graham struck out the final two Bulldogs hitters he faced to ensure he faced the minimum for the night.
“Preston was really just unbelievable tonight,” North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. “In 20 years of coaching, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
Graham was pressed to keep the game perfect in the fifth inning with two outs when Decatur’s Jalen Spruill worked the count to 3-1. The Trojans’ starter caught Spruill looking for the second strike on a fastball down the middle, then got him to swing for the third strike to keep the perfect game alive.
Offensively, North Hall broke it open in Game 1 with big offensive outings by Lincoln Hewett who went 3 for 3 with an RBI triple in the first inning, and McCoy Savage, who went 2 for 3 with a two-run triple in the third inning. In the sixth inning, Zach Mize closed out the win with a walk-off two-run double.
Andrew Smith had two hits in the first game, reached base in all four plate appearances and drove in a run.
NORTH HALL 6, DECATUR 2: Smith’s two-run double and an infield single that scored another run for the Trojans in the second inning helped ensure the first-round sweep. Smith doubled again to lead off the seventh inning and scored on a Mize single.
Griffin Olson had a bunt single in the seventh inning to drive home another Trojans run.
In addition to his sterling pitching performance, Graham slapped a two-out double to the outfield gap in the fourth inning. Hewett scored a run and drove in another run for North Hall.
In the seventh inning, Zak Schulman had the Bulldogs’ only RBI hit of the night. With the loss, Decatur’s season is now finished.