ROSWELL — Patrick McNamara never gave North Hall much of a chance to recover from one bad inning.
Blessed Trinity’s freshman left-hander made the most of his team’s four-run first inning with 5 1/3 strong innings on the mound, leading the Titans to a 5-2 victory over the Trojans in decisive Game 3 of the Class AAA second-round series at Titan Field.
“We got off to a little bit of a rough start and never really could quite rebound from it,” Trojans coach Trent Mongero said.
“It’s a shame because we really feel like we could not only play like these guys, but beat these guys. But, that’s the game of baseball and you’ve got to tip your hats to a quality team. Blessed Trinity is the real deal and we gave them everything we could, it just didn’t work out today.”
North Hall’s season is complete. Blessed Trinity (23-8), which lost to North Hall (21-10) in three games in the 2013 state semifinals, advances to face Central-Carroll in the state quarterfinals.
McNamara bounced back after opening the game with a four-pitch walk to Andrew Smith. The Trojans' leadoff hitter proceed to steal his 49th and 50th bases of the season and score on an RBI ground out by Micah Strickland.
McNamara also allowed a single to Corbin Lewallen later in the top of the first, then held North Hall without another hit until the sixth. He allowed three hits and two walks while striking out two.
“I didn’t feel like we did a good job of making adjustments with our approach (at the plate) early on,” Mongero said. “We work all the time on that approach, with hitting a left-hander, and we didn’t make it fast enough.”
Blessed Trinity gave McNamara all the support he needed in the bottom of the first, after leadoff hitter Bronco O’Brien came up with a single, and North Hall starting pitcher Josh Hammond walked Jack Dunn and Conor Davis to load the bases with one out.
O’Brien scored on a wild pitch to tie the game, and John Castro followed with a run-scoring double to deep right-center field that gave Blessed Trinity the lead.
Bryson Jenkins capped the inning with a two-run single that boosted the Titans’ lead to 4-1.
Lewallen came on in relief in the second inning after Hammond issued a one-out walk. The Trojans’ ace delivered a wild pitch that later allowed the runner to score, but he and Smith went on to combine for 5 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, they could not manufacture the runs needed to catch up.
North Hall’s best scoring opportunity came in the top of the sixth.
Singles by Smith, Strickland and Lincoln Hewett cut the deficit to 5-2 and left runners on the corners with one out.
Blessed Trinity turned to Cody Rogers on the mound, and he worked out of the jam without any additional damage. The right-hander induced a ground out that erased Strickland at home on a fielder's choice, then struck out Drew Atha to end the threat.
Rogers later retired the Trojans in order in the seventh.
After losing five key seniors from last year’s state runner-up squad, North Hall exceeded a lot of expectations in 2014 with a second-place finish in Region 7-AAA behind top-ranked Buford.
The success wasn’t lost on Smith, a senior headed to the Air Force Academy on a football scholarship.
“This senior class did a great job; I don’t think we were even picked to make the playoffs at the beginning of the year,” Smith said. “It’ll hurt right now, but I think in the future we’ll look back and say that we did everything we could.”
Said Mongero: “What a fabulous group of seniors, it really has not hit me, the finality of (losing them). Three of them have been around since the eighth grade ... and we’re going to miss them tremendously. I love them.”