North Hall third baseman Griffin Olson signified both the early frustration and late elation of the Trojans’ hitters Monday night.
It was his low line drive in the third inning, with the bases loaded and one out, that White County first baseman Brett Westmoreland leaped up and snagged before tagging the runner for an inning-ending double play.
And it was his leadoff line-drive double down the left-field line with two strikes that sparked the seven-run sixth inning that led North Hall to an 8-2 win over White County at Jody Davis Field in Gainesville.
With the win the Trojans (13-2, 9-1) have taken the first two in the season series against the Warriors, like North Hall a playoff contender in Region 7-AAA. The two teams will play once more later in the season.
Despite the lopsided final score, it was actually White County (9-5, 6-4) that was in position to win until late in the game, as the Warriors led 2-1 when Olson came to the plate to lead off the sixth inning. Warriors starting pitcher Blake Thomas had not allowed a leadoff hit all night, but Olson worked him for a full count before lacing the next pitch into deep left field. By the time he came back around for his next at bat, still in the sixth inning, the Trojans led 7-2.
Olson hit a sacrifice fly to center field to drive in the final run.
“Griffin is a quality hitter and he doesn’t strike out very often at all,” North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. “He hit well with two strikes, and his leadoff double gave us a spark.”
After Olson’s double, Zach Mize followed with a bunt single up the third base line, and Colton Duttweiler smacked a double to right field to drive Olson home. Adam Kelly followed with an RBI single to right field to put North Hall ahead for the first time all night.
Duttweiler and Kelly both scored on wild pitches, Kelly after Thomas had been replaced by Warriors reliever Brandon Sosebee, and Andrew Smith drove in two runs on a single to center field to break the game open at 7-2. Olson followed with the productive out, and Mize’s second at bat ended with another nice defensive play by Westmoreland on a line drive to conclude the inning.
North Hall cycled through six batters in the inning before getting the first out, and recorded five hits, three walks and a hit-by-pitch in the inning. The Trojans had just three hits and one walk entering the inning.
Olson, who finished 1 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored, was happy to get his frustration out in the sixth after Thomas allowed just one unearned run through the first five innings.
“He’s not as fast as we saw Friday, so he got us off balance,” Olson said of the Warriors’ southpaw. “It was frustrating, but when I got that (double) it took all the frustration out.
“I knew that it would help us, because I have confidence in my guys that if I get on base, they’ll driving me in somehow.”
The inning also turned around the night for North Hall starter Preston Graham, who entered the inning behind by a run and in danger of a loss, but left needing to get just three more outs to secure the win.
Graham struck out the side in the seventh for the complete-game win. He finished with just one earned run and three hits allowed while striking out 10. He went 1 for 1 with a double and two walks at the plate.
White County wound up using three pitchers total, making two changes in the sixth inning alone, and Thomas took the loss, allowing five runs — four earned — in five-plus innings of work.
“At times he kept us off balance and at times we hit it at people, but I told my guys to keep plugging away, and that’s what we did,” Mongero said. “That was two quality high school pitchers; Preston has been consistent with what he’s given us, and we have to tip our hat to (Thomas).”
Rightfielder McCoy Savage recorded North Hall’s first hit in the game against Thomas in the third inning, while Graham didn’t allow a hit until his counterpart led off the fifth with a single to right field. After a throwing error allowed Matthew Hambrick to reach base and both runners to advance, Warriors centerfielder Joel Pritchett brought both runners home with a two-run double to right center. Pritchett reached third with just one out but was stranded there by Graham, who got a strikeout and a groundout to escape the inning without further damage.
Graham scored North Hall’s first run in the bottom of the fifth. He hit a two-out double to short left field and then stole third, drawing a wide throw which enabled him to sprint home to cut White County’s lead at the time to 2-1.
North Hall finished with three errors and White County had two.
Smith finished 2 for 3 with a double, a walk and two RBIs for North Hall and Kelly finished 2 for 3 with an RBI.
North Hall next plays host to Banks County at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday in Gainesville; White County visits Buford at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday in Buford.