ROSWELL – North Hall’s Andrew Smith felt a hint of déjà vu following the Trojans’ split with Blessed Trinity on Wednesday in their Class AAA second-round baseball state playoff series.
North Hall defeated the Titans 6-4 in Game 1 before falling 6-0 in Game 2, forcing a series-deciding postseason showdown between the two teams for the second straight year.
“We’re getting very familiar with each other, that’s for sure,” Smith said. “Last year (in the state semifinals), we won Game 1 and lost Game 2.”
The Trojans (21-9) won that series, which punched their ticket to the state finals. They ended up as Class AAA runner-ups.
They can only hope things continue to unfold in parallel fashion when Game 3 begins at 5 p.m. today in Roswell.
“I think (today), having a lot of guys with experience and being against a great team like they are, it’s a great opportunity,” Smith said.
Smith went 3 for 4 with a run scored and Lincoln Hewett was 2 for 4 with three RBIs as North Hall erupted for 10 hits and plated all six runs over a three-run inning span in Game 1.
But the Trojans’ bats cooled off later in the night, and Blessed Trinity (22-8) pitcher Brad Spinner held them to just three hits in a complete-game shutout to force the series tie.
When the long day of baseball was over, North Hall coach Trent Mongero remained confident that his players would be rejuvenated for Game 3, just as they were in last year’s semifinals.
“It’s hard to sustain for a long period of time,” Mongero said. “We have to get that energy back. I think we’ll have it. We were in this situation numerous times last year.
“We understand what it takes, and the guys are going to be ready.”
Corbin Lewallen threw six innings for the Game 1 win, striking out two and walking two while giving up eight hits.
He pitched a perfect game until third inning, when he stranded a pair of runners to keep the game scoreless. He then stepped up the next inning and ripped a solo home run over the left field fence to give North Hall a 1-0 lead.
“Whether he has his best stuff or he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’s just competing,” Mongero said. “It seems like opponents have a difficult time barreling him up, and that was the case today.
“He wasn’t super sharp, his off-speed pitch was not on, but he was able to get outs all night and get the win, so he did his job.”
Blessed Trinity got the best of Lewallen in the bottom of the fourth, taking a 2-1 lead after Clay Massa scored on a passed ball and Conor Smith homered to deep center.
North Hall had its pitcher’s back in the fifth, collecting five hits and three runs in the most productive inning of the night. With two outs, Hewett singled to left to plate two runs, which was enough to chase Titans starter Ryan Young.
Blessed Trinity reliever Conor Smith struggled to contain the middle part of the Trojans’ order. He gave up a single to Lewallen and walked Stephen Murray before Drew Atha hit a liner to left that brought in another run for a 4-2 North Hall lead.
“The more you can string hits together, the more confident the guys get behind you,” Mongero said. “Good things start to happen.”
Blessed Trinity responded accordingly, tying the game again in the fifth with an RBI single from Jack Dunn and a sacrifice fly that brought Bronco O’Brien home.
North Hall countered with a sacrifice fly of its own off the bat of Micah Strickland, followed by Hewett’s second RBI hit of the night.
Andrew Smith recorded the save for the Trojans, pitching through a two-out jam with runners on the corners.
“It was tough – I had a lot of pressure,” Smith said. “I had confidence in my defense. If I kept throwing strikes, they were going to make the plays.”
Conor Smith was 2 for 4 with a solo home run for Blessed Trinity, but also took the loss in relief. Young struck out five hitters in 4 2/3 innings of work.
BLESSED TRINITY 6, NORTH HALL 0: Spinner allowed just three hits and struck out five to neutralize the Trojans’ bats and even the series with a Game 2 shutout.
Jake Bogosian led Blessed Trinity at the plate with a 3-for-3 performance, tripling and notching two RBIs. Cody Roberts was 2 for 4 for the Titans, who racked up 12 hits in the game.
“In the second game, I think we got stagnant and stale, and let the emotion of the game take over,” Smith said. “We just didn’t play with the enthusiasm we played with in Game 1.”
After giving up a leadoff double to Smith in the first inning, Spinner didn’t allow another hit until the fourth. By then, Blessed Trinity had a 2-0 lead following Bogosian’s two-run single earlier in the inning.
O’Brien scored on a balk in the fifth, and Bryson Jenkins tacked on an RBI single in the sixth. The Titans added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on an RBI single by Roberts and a sacrifice fly hit by Grant Hormuth.
Brandon Delong pitched a complete game for North Hall, striking out three and walking two.