Friday’s game for North Hall was the kind that could give this veteran squad a boost down the stretch of the regular season. The Trojans (10-5, 7-2 Region 8-AAA North) received a complete-game shutout performance on the mound from junior left-hander Preston Graham, had two players with three hits each and played error-free ball in a 10-0 win in six innings against Lanier at Jody Davis Field.
“I’m very proud of the way we played today,” North Hall coach Trent Mongero said.
The win was especially important for North Hall as it tries to hold off Stephens County for the No. 1 spot in the North subregion for the eventual region playoff at the end of April. The Trojans have just five subregion games remaining, along with a handful of crossover games, including a meeting against second-ranked Gainesville on April 13.
Graham was solid from beginning to end against the Longhorns (7-6, 5-4). He threw 55 of his 75 pitches for strikes and finished the game with a season-high 10 strikeouts.
The only trouble North Hall’s lefty faced came in the third inning when Lanier’s Trenton Little reached on a one-out single and T.J. Richardson reached when he was hit by a pitch with two outs. However, Graham got himself out of the jam with a pick-off at first to record the final out.
“I though Preston was dominant out there on the mound tonight,” Mongero said. “He threw the ball for strikes all night long.”
And Graham got better as the game went along. In the fifth and sixth innings, he struck out a stretch of five out of six hitters. After Lanier’s Kameron Doster started the fifth with one of its only three singles on the night, Graham proceeded to strikeout the next three hitters in order.
North Hall did most of its damage offensively in the fourth inning when six runs crossed the plate before the second out of the inning was recorded. The Trojans sent 12 hitters to the plate with six hits to fuel the seven-run inning.
The inning started with a first-pitch home run from Zach Mize over the left-field fence. It helped bolster North Hall’s offense immediately after just two hits in the first three innings of the game.
“As soon as Zach hit that home run, I went up to him and said ‘thank you,’” Graham said.
The next three hitters reached for North Hall, setting the table for Eli Gilmer’s two-run double off the left-field wall.
Colton Duttweiler (3 for 3, three RBIs) had an RBI single over a drawn-in shortstop’s head in the fourth for North Hall, along with a two-run single in the fifth for the Trojans.
Wade Phillips also had three singles for the Trojans, including a single to short center field that loaded the bases in the fourth inning. He also singled early in the fifth inning and scored on Duttweiler’s single through the middle.
North Hall kept the pressure on with stolen bases, including a pair of double steals.
“We were aggressive on the bases all night,” Mongero added. “I’m proud of the way the guys stayed focused all night.”
Griffin Olson hit a walk-off double down the left-field line in the sixth inning that scored Jesse Strickland from first after a lead-off single.
North Hall plays next at Chestatee at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday. Lanier hosts Gainesville at 5:55 p.m. Monday in Sugar Hill.