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North Hall rolls past East Hall in regular season finale
North Hall pitcher Preston Graham delivers a pitch for the Trojans during the third inning of their game with East Hall at East Hall Park Friday evening. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

After Friday night’s win, North Hall head coach Trent Mongero said he was proud of how his guys kept focus, even if their No. 1 seed and region championship had already been clinched before Friday night’s game.

He said it’s now time to go back to fundamentals and get prepared for the state playoffs.

The Trojans (24-2, 20-1) defeatedEast Hall 18-0 to set a team record for most wins in a single season.

North Hall looks to keep its momentum rolling as it opens up the state playoffs next Friday against the No. 4 seed Decatur Bulldogs.

“I’m very proud of the way (the team) played tonight,” Mongero said. “I was concerned with whether we would be focused or not, and the guys came out focused. We’ve had some momentum lately and we wanted to carry that momentum into the playoffs, and I felt like we were able to do that tonight.

“In the years I’ve been coaching, I’ve seen teams let off the gas pedal, so to speak, when they’ve clinched. We spoke about it, we talked about it, but that’s attribute to these players because all the talk in the world doesn’t often times get through to high schoolers. They just have an intensity about them that I’m very proud of.”

Mongero said they set aside individual records and put focus on the single-season wins record, but the team’s ultimate goal and focus is still in front of them. Decatur is their first concern.

“Records are great, but there’s one thing we’re concerned about right now, and that’s Decatur and the first round of the state playoffs,” he said. “We’re going to work really hard this week to prepare; going back to our fundamentals. Really spring training-type stuff.

“We’re expecting a tremendous team that’s faced some good competition at the top, especially in their region. We know we’ve got to be ready to play, so we’re excited for the opportunity. New season, anything can happen. We know we’ve got to play well. If we don’t, they’ll be consequences. But we’re confident that our guys will be prepared. We’re just going to take it one game at a time and see where it takes us.”

Against the Vikings, the Trojans’ offense and defense clicked on all cylinders, and were led by senior pitcher Preston Graham.

Graham pitched a one-hit shutout, recording five strikeouts in three innings of play.

“My pitching coach just wanted me to come out and pitch like I have been all year,” Graham said. “I had confidence in everything I did, so I just went in there and threw strikes.”

Graham also attributed his pitching performance to the Trojans’ offense, who gave him a 3-0 lead after the first inning. When he went to take the mound his second time, the lead was 8-0.

“Makes you feel a lot better about the whole team, and the confidence that the team has at the time, and the energy,” Graham said. “Energy’s a big part of pitching because when you get out there and you have a lot of energy, you’re going to feel good about your stuff.”

Graham also said he expects the team to do what they’ve done all year, and just play their game against Decatur.

“Preston did a really good job tonight,” North Hall senior Adam Kelly said. “We finally started hitting the ball like we’re capable of. We ran the bases well, and it was just nice to have a good, solid win going into next week with the playoffs.

“We just expect to play Trojans’ baseball, how we’ve doing the whole year, and that’s pretty much got us where we are now. We just like to keep doing that and see where it takes us.”

Kelly finished Friday night’s game going 3 for 3 with two singles, a triple and three RBIs. The Trojans finished the game with 13 hits and nine stolen bases. Andrew Smith collected four steals.