CLEVELAND — North Hall’s big inning trumped White County’s in a 13-9 victory Wednesday night.
In the Region 8-AAA debut for both teams, the Trojans (2-1, 1-0) scored eight runs in the sixth inning to take an 11-9 lead. That erased the 9-3 lead the Warriors (0-1, 0-1) maintained thanks to a six-run first inning.
“We just kept battling at the plate,” said North Hall first baseman Hamilton Harper, who belted a three-run home run and scored twice. “Some things didn’t go our way, but the guys stayed confident and we continued to put the ball in play with two strikes, and we just happened to make some plays.”
North Hall struck first with Harper’s shot to right-center in the first inning that gave the Trojans a 3-0 lead. But the Warriors battled back with six runs on six hits in the bottom half of the inning, highlighted by a three-run homer from left fielder Kyle Mills. Jeremy McClure and Dylan Lee also had RBI singles in the inning, which saw 10 Warriors reach the plate.
The Warriors tacked on two more runs in the fourth when the Trojans relay throw on a sacrifice fly sailed into the White County dugout, plating Hayden Cummins and McClure. Lee scored in the fifth on Mills’ RBI single to give White County a 9-3 lead.
Then came the sixth inning.
The Warriors took starter Luke Crumley out of the game, and the bullpen struggled. Mills, Blake Thomas and Justin Hester combined for eight runs on five walks, three hits and a hit batter, while the Warriors defense committed an error. The Trojans sent 12 batters to the plate, highlighted by two-run singles from Chris Stevens and Wade Phillips.
“Our big inning was us helping them with five walks and a hit batter,” Warriors coach John Brown said.
“That made a big difference.”
With the lead, reliever Preston Graham kept the Warriors down. The sophomore pitched two scoreless innings to close out the game, and was aided by two insurance runs in the seventh, including an RBI single by Stevens.
“We knew we had to battle after the six-run first,” said Stevens, who pitched four innings and gave up eight runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out four. “It was 9-3 but we knew we could come back. We just had to have some big at-bats.”
Trojans coach Trent Mongero was pleased with Graham’s effort out of the bullpen.
“We didn’t want to burn Chris with his pitch count this early in the season, so we got him out,” Mongero said. “Our plan was to bring Graham in if the game was close at the end, and he did an excellent job as a sophomore, especially.”
White County was playing its season opener a week late. The Warriors were originally scheduled to play last Friday against Grady, but Grady backed out and Brown couldn’t find a replacement opponent.
Brown didn’t think rust was a factor for the Warriors.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I just don’t think our relievers did a good job of pitching after (Luke) left the game. You’ve got to throw strikes to win ball games when you have a 9-3 lead and we didn’t do that.”
On the flip side, Harper thinks the win forces the rest of the region to take North Hall seriously.
“To be honest, at the beginning of the season I don’t think too many people were looking for us to compete,” Harper said. “This is going to set the tone for our season and let everyone know we’ve got some fight in us.”
The Trojans host West Hall and the Warriors host Gainesville, with both games 5:55 p.m. Friday.