With heroes all over the diamond, surging North Hall swept a doubleheader against Pickens on Friday in the first round of the Class AAAA baseball tournament at Jody Davis Field.
North Hall senior Lincoln Hewett slugged a pair of two-run doubles in a 7-2 Game 1 victory, then picked up the win in relief during the 8-3 clincher in Game 2.
The Trojans advance to face the winner of Crisp County and Upson-Lee. It’s the third straight trip to the second round for North Hall, which reached the state finals in 2013. The Trojans have now swept each of their last three first-round opponents.
GAME 2: NORTH HALL 8, PICKENS 3: Junior catcher Fowler Brooks delivered the big blow for the Trojans in the second game, launching a momentum-shifting, three-run home run, his first dinger of the season. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
North Hall trailed 2-0 entering the fourth inning and was struggling to solve Pickens starter Tyler Garner, who did not allow a hit through three innings. Hewett reached on an error to lead off the fourth, and Corbin Lewallen banged a double off the base of the center-field wall. That’s when Brooks stepped to the plate and drilled a no-doubt shot over the left-center wall to give the Trojans the lead.
“Huge,” North Hall coach Trent Mongero said of Brooks’ blast. “They were carrying the momentum with that two-run lead. We weren’t playing particularly sharp in the first three innings. And then we came out and just crushed them in that fourth inning. It felt like the air was kind of taken away from them.”
Drew Coker very nearly made it back-to-back long balls, following Brooks’ blast with a shot off the center-field wall. Josh Hammond singled home Coker to make it 4-2 North Hall.
Hewett relieved North Hall starter Aaron Miles in the third inning and did not allow a run in 3 2/3 innings, despite battling cramps in both legs.
“It was worth it, winning, honestly,” Hewett said. “I feel like the cramps in my legs almost helped me out, not trying to push too hard. It helped me relax and allowed me throw strikes.”
North Hall tacked on runs in the fifth and sixth innings, with Lewallen and Coker collecting RBIs. A two-run double by Taber Mongero added insurance for the Trojans in the seventh.
“Up and down the lineup, we had guys contributing,” coach Mongero said. “And we played error-free in the infield, with just one misfortune in the outfield. We did the (key things) that you have to do (to win).”
With North Hall’s junior-senior prom Friday night, the doubleheader started at 1 p.m. No one was happier than coach Mongero to seal the series and not to have to come back for a decisive third game Saturday.
“Nine years ago, we split with Cass and had to come back after prom,” Mongero recalled with a smile.
“Same exact scenario, and it didn’t work out well for us.”
Since dropping back-to-back region games to Buford in early April, the Trojans have won seven of eight games.
“You want to be playing your best at the end,” Mongero said. “We’ve worked toward that goal. We’ve pitched well, had timely hitting and played great defense with only one error in two ball games. If we carry that momentum and execute, good things will happen.”
GAME 1: NORTH HALL 7, PICKENS 2: Atha and Hewett delivered two-run doubles in a tone-setting first inning, and Lewallen went the distance, allowing two runs on seven hits for the win.
Hewett did more damage in the second inning, belting another two-run double that plated Matthew Cox and Taber Mongero to make it 6-1 Trojans.
That was plenty for Lewallen, who was smooth and efficient. The senior left-hander gave up single runs in the second and fifth innings, but never faced any serious jams.
Senior centerfielder Micah Strickland smacked a solo home run over the left-center wall in the fourth inning, his fifth of the season.
Walker Lawrence and Wyatt Gooch had RBIs for the Dragons, who were making their first playoff appearance in 13 years.