It was only fitting that the Region 7-AAA playoff picture wasn’t completely solidified until the final out was recorded on the final day of the regular season.
All season long the coaches from the schools in the region insisted that it was going to be a battle to the end for the four coveted playoff spots
Even though Creekview (23-3), Flowery Branch (20-5), Lumpkin County (20-6) and West Forsyth (17-8) had clinched the four postseason spots, the pecking order was still a little murky until North Hall recorded the final out in its 6-2 win against Lumpkin County on Friday night at Jody Davis Field.
"I’m not surprised at all that it came down to the final night," Indians coach Nick Jenkins said. "We knew there were seven or eight teams that could make the playoffs and it was just a matter of who got hot at the right time."
North Hall’s win clinched the second seed for Flowery Branch, which won eight of its last nine in region play. The Falcons open the Class AAA state playoffs with a best-of-three series against Oconee County next Friday at the Hog Mountain Complex.
Flowery Branch secured the No. 2 spot with wins in its final two games combined with consecutive Lumpkin County losses. The third-seeded Indians visit Elbert County next Friday for a best-of-three first-round playoff series.
The Trojans (16-10) were already out of playoff contention, despite winning their final six games of the season.
North Hall finished the season on a high note for next season, breaking school records in RBIs, runs scored, team batting average, walks and hits in a season.
Trojans senior Nathan Strong reached base twice in the final game of the season, and established a new single-season school record with a .459 batting average. North Hall coach Trent Mongero said six one-run losses were the difference in the season.
"It’s kind of bittersweet," Mongero said. "You would think if you set six new team records that you would be headed to the playoffs, but those one-run losses really made the difference."
North Hall won the season finale behind a six-inning, six strikeout performance from senior pitcher Davis Partrick.
He only allowed three hits and two walks in the outing.
Partrick also finished the game with a pair of hits and two runs scored.
"We played with a lot of pride here at the end of the season," Mongero said. "I felt like we were playing as well as anyone in the region down the stretch and we didn’t want to let up at the end."
North Hall junior shortstop K.J. McAllister also hit the ball well with a pair of doubles, three hits and two RBIs for the game.
His RBI single in the third inning scored senior Graham Duncan, then an RBI double in the fifth inning plated Partrick.
The Trojans set the tone with solid two-strike hitting in the first inning. Three hits with two strikes in the count resulted in the first run in the game when Strong scored from second. Jackson Coker also finished the game with two hits for the Trojans.
Blake Sargent, Chris Guthrie and Drew Uptegraph each had hits for Lumpkin County. The Indians have seven days before they open the playoffs.
"The biggest thing for us is to get our focus and intensity back," Jenkins said.