BLACKSHEAR — Adam Kelly and Griffin Olson had both been waiting for their moment. When it arrived, the North Hall seniors delivered.
Kelly tossed five scoreless innings of relief against Pierce County in Game 2 of the Class AAA state quarterfinals, and Olson launched a two-run, walk-off home run in the seventh inning to give the Trojans a 5-4 comeback victory on Tuesday at the Bears’ field.
Game 3 of the series is today at 4:30 p.m.
Making their first quarterfinals appearance in program history, the Trojans (29-3) lost Game 1 of the series 3-2 and trailed 4-1 after two innings of Game 2. North Hall narrowed the gap to 4-3 going into the seventh and put the tying run at first with one out when Zach Mize reached on an error.
Olson, the Trojans’ No. 3 hitter, came up next and launched the second pitch he saw from Bears starting pitcher Stetson Smith over the left field fence to extend the Trojans’ historic season at least one more day. He finished the game with three hits.
“I was sitting [on a] changeup the whole game and the second pitch I got in the at-bat was a changeup,” Olson said. “As soon as I saw it ... I swung as hard as I could. I can’t even put into words how it feels because I love this group of guys and if we’d had to stop playing [tonight], I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”
Colton Duttweiler got the start on the mound in Game 2, but was replaced by Kelly in the third after being charged with a pair of balks in the second inning that helped Pierce County (23-7) put its final two runs across the plate.
Kelly struck out 10 batters and allowed just one hit the rest of the way.
“I’ve been waiting on pitching in the postseason for a long time,” said Kelly, who had pitched only one inning during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“I’ve been the [scheduled] Game 3 starter, but we hadn’t gotten to a Game 3 yet. I had an idea coming into the game that I’d come in, and I was just ready for it.”
“Adam was just lights out,” Trojans head coach Trent Mongero said.” We knew he was capable of doing that. We were put into that situation with the balk calls we were getting, so we felt Adam would be able to hold our baserunners better and shut them down.”
Duttweiler, Kelly and McCoy Savage drove in the Trojans’ first three runs in Game 2, and North Hall finished with seven hits.
The Trojans played without senior shortstop and leadoff hitter Andrew Smith, who served a two-game suspension after being ejected in Game 2 of the team’s second round series with Franklin County. Smith will be eligible to play Game 3 against Pierce County today.
“The whole team told Andrew not to worry, that he’d be back in uniform, and he will be [in Game 3],” Mongero said. “It’s nice to know that ... we’ll be playing with a full deck of cards.
“Every person in our lineup has a role and we were able to overcome Andrew not being in the lineup. Now he’s back and we feel like we can be churning on all wheels.”
PIERCE COUNTY 3, NORTH HALL 2: Game 1 was almost a mirror image of Game 2, only in Pierce County’s favor.
The Trojans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning courtesy of an RBI double by Savage and a sacrifice fly by Mize off Bears starting pitcher Cole Dowling.
But, just as North Hall did in Game 2, Pierce County slowly chipped away until it could finish the rally.
Dowling held North Hall scoreless the rest of the way, and the Bears scored a run in each of the final three innings off North Hall starting pitcher Preston Graham.
Graham, who was coming off consecutive complete game shutouts in the first two rounds of the playoffs, gave up a game-tying solo home run to Zack Goble on the first pitch of the sixth inning.
Pierce County’s Rod Kennedy led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, advanced to second on an error and advanced to third on an attempted fielder’s choice. Smith drove him in with a walk-off single up the middle with nobody out.