Leading up to Saturday’s Class AAA state championship baseball series, North Hall always found a way to come through with the big hit or play in the field when it needed it most. However, down one game in the best-of-three series against Cartersville, it was the Purple Hurricanes that found a way to win the close one in Gainesville.
Tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Cartersville’s Beau Benefield led off and reached second base when his attempt at a bunt single resulted in a throwing error. Cartersville, which won the first game 4-2, drove in the winning run on a sharply-hit, walk-off single by Tripp Jameison down the first base line that scored Benefield from third for a 2-1 win and the program’s sixth state championship since 2001.
In Game 1, North Hall stranded 12 runners on base.
Despite the loss, it was a season of records for North Hall with its first trip past the second round of the playoffs in school history and first crack at a state championship. The Trojans also set a new school record with 32 wins, along with countless pitching and offensive records.
“I’m so proud of this team,” North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. “They fought so hard all day.
“They’ll be able to look back on this in a couple days and realize what they were able to accomplish. They certainly set the bar high for the future with the North Hall baseball program.”
North Hall starting pitcher Colton Duttweiler pitched well in Game 2 with five strikeouts, and kept a hot-hitting Purple Hurricanes squad off track for most of the night. The Trojans senior left-hander set down the first six hitters he faced in order. North Hall jumped up in the second game, 1-0, on a hard-hit double by senior Griffin Olson that scored Andrew Smith. Cartersville, however, rallied back with the tying run in the home half of the fifth inning when Jameison connected on a sacrifice fly, scoring Hayes Linn from third.
“Colton pitched his rear end off again for us today,” Mongero said. “We were in a position to win it and that’s all you can ask for.
“Our kids laid it on the line and have nothing to be ashamed of.”
With the score tied 1-1 in the sixth, Duttweiler kept the game even when induced a fly out with the go-ahead run at second base.
North Hall had an opportunity to take the lead in the seventh inning Olson reached on a ground ball that wasn’t fielded cleanly on the throw at first base. Initially he was sent to second base on what was ruled a balk, but was overturned and sent back to first by the umpires. Next Duttweiler put down a bunt that came down between a diving third baseman and pitcher, but pitcher Garrett Rutledge fielded it and threw to second base for the force play. Adam Kelly followed with a one-out single for the Trojans, but Rutledge managed to retire the final two hitters.
Rutledge finished with seven strikeouts on the mound and allowed just three hits to Trojans hitters.
“It just wasn’t meant to be today,” Mongero said. “You have to tip your hat to Cartersville for a job well done.”
CARTERSVILLE 4, NORTH HALL 2: The Trojans had ample opportunities in Game 1, even late against Purple Hurricanes relief pitcher Connor Justus, but left the bases loaded in the sixth inning and two on base in their final at bat without scoring.
In the sixth, North Hall took advantage of an infield error and pair of walks to load the bases. However, Olson grounded to second base and was out on the throw to first to end the threat.
In the seventh, Duttweiler had his third hit of the game and moved to second on a ground out. Stephen Murray reached on a two-out walk, before the game’s final out was made on a ground out to the right side of the infield.
North Hall also left a pair of runners on base in each of the first three innings of the game, and Cartersville jumped to a 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning. The Purple Hurricanes scored on RBI doubles from both Ty Fowler and Benefield, and Justus roped an RBI single for their final run of the inning.
Savage doubled to start the third inning for North Hall, and came across to score on Andrew Smith’s sacrifice fly.
Then in the fourth, Olson had a lead-off double, and scored on a ground out.
North Hall had a great scoring opportunity in the first inning with three straight one-out singles from Zach Mize, Olson and Kelly, but failed to score. With one out, Mize was first to single, but was out trying to stretch it into a double.
Cartersville scored its final run in the fifth inning with a bloop single to short right field from Drew Lawson.