North Hall baseball coach Trent Mongero was just relieved to get back in the win column Wednesday night.
This victory, however, meant more than most.
The Trojans stayed in the running for the No. 2 seed in Region 7-3A, which brings with it a first-round home playoff game, by defeating Dawson County 6-1 at Jody Davis Field. Not only did North Hall (19-9, 12-5 region) snap its five-game losing streak, the team turned Friday’s series finale into a de facto second-place region game.
“Our players knew what was at stake in terms of the region race,” Mongero said. “But it just felt good to get the monkey off our back.”
Prior to Wednesday night, the Trojans had lost their three most recent games on runs scored in the seventh inning, with the last two coming via walk-off hits.
But North Hall took a large lead into the final frame against the Tigers (19-8, 13-4) thanks to Corban Meeler’s complete game and two RBIs apiece from designated hitter Charlie Erickson and first baseman Jackson Latty.
Now the Trojans have a chance to earn the series win and an all-important home playoff series when they visit Dawson County for the teams’ regular-season finale at 5:55 p.m. Friday.
“Having a home playoff game could really help us out and make a difference in how far we go,” Erickson said. “It’s always nice to have your family and the home fans behind you in a big game like that.”
North Hall scored a pair of runs in each of the first two innings, fueled by shortstop Taber Mongero’s leadoff double that hit the wall in right-center field.
The next three batters were issued free passes, walking in a run and sending Erickson (3 for 4) to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out. He delivered with an RBI single that forced the first of six Dawson County pitching changes.
Taber Mongero (2 for 3) reached again in the second inning with a sneaky first-pitch bunt that advanced Dylan Lavender, who got on via a fielding error. After Austin Adams drew another walk, Reese Olson drove in a run with a fielder’s choice and Latty reached on a fielding error that could have been the inning-ending double play, Erickson came up with the bases loaded once more.
The junior unloaded another run-scoring single, a liner that skipped just past the Tigers’ diving shortstop.
“It’s nerve-wracking and something you’ve got to work through, but I love coming up and seeing the bases loaded,” Erickson said. “I got a lot of curveballs, but I sat back and waited for a fastballs and just drove them.”
Dawson County got a run back in the third frame on a double to left-center field by Kolton Brumbelow (2 for 3), and Austin Young recorded a hit in all three of his at-bats.
But Meeler didn’t surrender much more, giving up just seven hits over as many innings. He finished with eight strikeouts and just one walk, which came with one out left in the game. Meeler even helped complete a lengthy rundown in the sixth inning, and despite accidentally getting elbowed in the face by the baserunner, he returned to the mound for the final five outs.
“He really competed tonight and just beared down on them,” Trent Mongero said. “And he came back after taking a shot to the face, which just shows how much he wanted to be out there.”
That wasn’t the only impressive defensive play of the game.
Later in that inning, Trojans right fielder Caleb Clark laid out face-first to snag a two-out blooper that sent fans of both teams to their feet.
“I was calling for him to lay out for it the whole way,” Erickson said with a laugh.
North Hall tacked on two more runs in the fifth, the first courtesy of a two-base fielding error that allowed Taber Mongero to score after a leadoff walk and stolen base. Latty then executed a perfect squeeze bunt to plate Adams for the third time.
It was the final blow as the Trojans evened the series following a 6-5, walk-off loss Monday night at Dawson County. But North Hall is focused on something even more important the winning the series Friday — locking up the No. 2 seed in the region behind Greater Atlanta Christian.
“We’ve done some damage from that No. 2 spot in the playoffs a couple times over the last several years,” Trent Mongero said. “On top of that, we want one more home game for our seniors.”