With its 8-4 win against Gainesville on Monday, North Hall accomplished two things: The Trojans (11-10, 11-8 Region 7-AAA) earned a split in the season series against Gainesville, and they left the Red Elephants (11-9, 11-8) clinging to slim hopes of making the playoffs.
Already a longshot for the playoffs, North Hall rode an outstanding performance from junior relief pitcher Nathan Hewell to the win at Jody Davis Field. He entered the game in the first inning with one out and went the next six innings, allowing only two runs and striking out six hitters.
"This was a total team effort for our team," Hewell said. "This was nice for us to get our seniors a win against them."
With only five games left, North Hall and Gainesville are now both four games behind West Forsyth and Flowery Branch for the final two spots in the playoffs.
The Trojans secured the come-from-behind victory with two clutch hits with the bases loaded. North Hall scored all eight of its runs with two outs. Gainesville failed to score both times it loaded the bases.
"That’s what it came down to, is they had the hits when they needed it and we didn’t," Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said. "Now we’re just going to have to try and win out and see what happens."
North Hall scored four runs in each the second and third innings. The Trojans started both innings with a walk from Ryan Pitts and then a hit single from Chris Stevens. In the second inning, Nate Strong had North Hall’s big hit with a two-out single that plated a pair of runs. Then Jackson Coker followed with an RBI hit.
In the next inning, it was Trojans leadoff hitter K.J. McAllister that cleared the bases. With two strikes and two outs, he slapped an offspeed pitch through the hole at shortstop that went to the wall, scoring Pitts and Stevens. McAllister finished the game 2-for-2 with two walks, three RBIs and a pair of stolen bases.
Strong and Stevens each finished with two-hit games for the Trojans.
Meanwhile, the Red Elephants had no luck with the bases full. Hewell recorded the final two outs in the first, after the Red Elephants already owned a 2-0 lead. Then in the fifth, he recorded a strikeout with the bases loaded.
"Nathan was a bulldog for us out there," North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. "He really turned the momentum around for us."
Gainesville catcher Sloan Strickland drove in the game’s first run with an RBI single, scoring Stephen Mason. Then Will Maddox scored for the Red Elephants on a wild pitch. Mason and Strickland each finished the game with a pair of hits.
Gainesville visits Chestatee at 5:30 p.m. today. North Hall visits West Hall at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.