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North Hall routs Walnut Grove 11-0
All around effort leads to big region win
North Hall’s Jesse Strickland is out at first base as Walnut Grove’s Ryan Lovett catches the ball Friday during a game at North Hall High School. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

High school football playoffs

By: Bill Murphy

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North Hall knows how important each game is the rest of the way.

Regardless of the quality of their opponent, the Trojans’ best shot at locking up the top seed in Region 8-AAA is to win their remaining games. On Friday in front of the home crowd, they took care of business, beating Walnut Grove 11-0 in five innings thanks to a 10-run second inning, stellar pitching by Preston

Graham and spectacular defense from center fielder Adam Kelley.

The win keeps the Trojans (19-4, 18-3) in a first-place tie with White County, which also won Friday. Both have clinched a state playoff berth. North Hall owns the tiebreaker over White County — the teams split two head-to-head meetings — which is run differential in head-to-head meetings. The Trojans allowed 13 runs to the Warriors, who allowed 14 runs.

The loss eliminates Walnut Grove (13-9, 12-8) from postseason contention.

The game was decided in the second inning when North Hall rocked Walnut Grove for 10 runs. The Trojans sent 13 batters to the plate and compiled five hits, including a three-run home run by Mason Savage. Walnut Grove walked three batters, hit another and committed an error.

“Everybody kept their approach of staying on the fast ball,” Savage said. “We all came together, sat on pitches and stroked the ball. It was a team effort all the way around.

“I just tried to do my little part.”

Hamilton Harper’s solo shot in the fourth completed the scoring.

On the mound, Graham kept Walnut Grove in check, striking out seven and walking none, while allowing just three hits and a hit batter.

“I was out there just trying to throw strikes and let my defense do the work,” Graham said. “Adam Kelley came up with two big plays that were really nice and that helps out and keeps the momentum going our way.

“Our defense was stout.”

In the third inning, with Walnut Grove runners on first and second, Kelley saved a run with a fully extended diving catch. Graham started a 1-6-3 double play the next batter.

The next inning, with runners on first and third, he made another diving catch for the third out.

“The team is extremely focused,” Trojans coach Trent Mongero said. “It’s been a tight race all year, and we’re truly doing what teams try to do year in and year out, and that’s take it one game at a time and respect every opponent.

“That’s what we did tonight.”

Savage was 2-for-2 with two runs scored, and Harper was 3-for-3 with two runs scored, a double and three RBIs. Chris Stephens also scored twice. Graham added two RBIs for the Trojans, who play at Gainesville on Monday at 5:55 p.m.

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