In the North Hall High baseball team’s most recent series against a Region 7-AAA opponent, the Trojans required seventh-inning rallies in all three games of their sweep against Fannin County.
But North Hall didn’t even need that many frames to win Game 1 of this week’s region showdown.
The Trojans scored in every inning of their 10-0, six-inning victory against Union County on Monday night at Jody Davis Field. Reese Olson, who finished 2 for 3 with five RBIs, was among four players who recorded multi-hit games for North Hall (14-4, 7-0 Region 7-AAA).
After watching his team crank six extra-base hits, Trojans coach Trent Mongero attributed the offensive outburst to his players implementing an effective approach at the plate.
“We were seeing a lefty that didn’t have as much pace, so we really wanted to stay back and work inside the ball to the back side and not try to overly pull balls,” Mongero said. “We were able to hit a lot of backside shots, and that’s really the approach you have to take against a quality left-handed pitcher who’s crafty like he was.”
That resulted in ample run support for North Hall pitcher Corban Meeler, who struck out seven and surrendered six hits through as many shutout innings. Though Mongero praised Meeler’s work, both coach and player said the right-hander occasionally struggled with command.
“It probably wasn’t my best outing,” Meeler said. “I feel like I missed my spots a lot from coach’s scouting report. I feel like I didn’t get ahead on many batters. I didn’t feel like it was my best, but it’s definitely one to improve on.”
The Trojans’ performance at the plate was a different story.
North Hall produced four hits in the first five at-bats of its three-run first inning, starting with Taber Mongero’s first-pitch double to left-center that just avoided the grasp of diving Panthers left fielder Slade Thompson.
Austin Adams (2 for 4, RBI, two runs scored) reached on a bunt, Jackson Latty belted a run-scoring double and Olson rounded out the frame with a two-RBI single through the right side.
Adams tacked on another run in the next inning with a groundout that plated Dylan Lavender, who reached on a throwing error after Panthers catcher Dawson Groves dropped the third strike.
“It’s much better on your nerves,” Olson said of his team’s quick start. “You don’t like having to come back every time. You like to score more runs early on and get ahead.”
North Hall scratched across an unearned run in the third. After a throwing error put Latty (1 for 2, RBI, three runs scored) on first base, he stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and raced home thanks to Olson’s sacrifice fly.
Olson drove in another pair of runs in the following frame with a two-out, bases-loaded single that right fielder Hunter Kelley almost corralled on the dive. The fifth inning yielded another run for the Trojans, who padded their lead to 8-0 on Taber Mongero’s RBI groundout that scored Drew Hubbard (2 for 3).
Wesley Smith put an exclamation point on North Hall’s evening, ripping a walk-off, two-run triple to right-center to enforce the mercy rule.
“I feel like the guys were zoned in,” Trent Mongero said. “We’ve been hitting the ball very well in batting practice, we’ve been playing quality opponents and it all came together nicely at the plate tonight.”
Union County (5-8, 1-6 region) mounted threats over the final three frames, but Meeler escaped unscathed each time.
Groves had a chance to cut into the Trojans’ 5-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning with one out and runners on the corners. Meeler wiggled out of the jam with a great defensive play, snagging a liner at his shins before tossing the ball to first base for an inning-ending double play.
“It was just reaction,” the pitcher said with a laugh. “It was all luck, pretty much.”
After allowing two runners to reach in the fifth, Meeler caught Thompson attempting to steal third and made an easy putout at the bag following a rundown. He then gave up three straight singles to open the sixth inning, only to induce a pair of popups and a swinging strikeout.
“He made the plays when he had to make them and made the pitches when he had to make them,” Trent Mongero said. “He’s an experienced pitcher for us, and we expect that kind of performance from him.”
North Hall can claim the series when Game 2 begins at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday in Blairsville. The Trojans will be eyeing their third region series sweep after winning three-game sets against Lumpkin County and Fannin County.
Players said the key to their hot start in region play has been fundamental baseball in the field and on the mound.
“It has been good pitching and defense,” Olson said. “Defense wins games. The hitting will come.”