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West Hall baseball takes 8-5 decision over Lumpkin County in Game 1 of series
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Lumpkin County catcher Ben Brown dives after a ball as West Hall's Cole Wilson (22) safely slides into home during Tuesday's game at West Hall High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

West Hall High’s baseball team moved one step closer to securing second place in Region 7-AAA with an 8-5 win over Lumpkin County Tuesday night in Oakwood.

Heading into the bout, the Spartans (13-8, 7-6) and Indians (11-9, 6-7) were tied for third place in the region standings. Friday’s remaining doubleheader between the two teams will provide more clarity for the scope of the playoff race.

The Indians struck first Tuesday with leadoff batter Sebastian Dunn being hit by a pitch before moving to third on a botched pickoff attempt. Then, T.J. Rider delivered a single through the right side to drive Dunn across the plate.

West Hall answered in the bottom of the first after a walk to leadoff batter Tanner Ahmad led to an RBI groundout from Jeffery Jenkins.

Fast-forward two innings later and the Spartans held a 7-1 lead.

“They gave us a lot early on in the game — a lot of walks, some errors by them — same old story it seems like,” said West Hall head coach Chad Sage. “We were up 7-1 with bases loaded and we can’t seem to find the big hit. Credit their pitching because they did a good job getting out of it.”

West Hall knocked Indians starter Julio Romero off the mound after 2 2/3 innings. Matthew Grizzle came in for a stint of relief work and did his job.

Grizzle pitched 2 1/3, recording a pair of strikeouts. The freshman retired his first seven batters faced before starting the sixth inning.

Spartans catcher Josh Anderson forced Grizzle to throw seven pitches and notched a hit on the final one — the only hit allowed by the pitcher. Anderson later came around to score the final run of the game — accounting for the only run allowed by Grizzle — on a Merrit Gazaway single to left field.

During Grizzle’s time on the mound for Lumpkin County, his offense tried to give him a chance for a win as they plated four runs.

In the fourth inning, Dalton Stephens scored on a throwing error from the Spartans’ defense.

The Indians notched a pair of runs as Dunn, Rider and Ben Brown delivered back-to-back-to-back singles. Back-to-back fielder’s choices on balls put in play by Wil Pence and Romero scored Dunn and Rider.

Charlie Cochran came in and closed down things for the Spartans on the mound, facing three batters.

In 10 pitches, Cochran forced a pop fly out of Brown. Next, Pence singled to left field, but was thrown out stretching it into a double. For the final out of the game, Cochran struck out Romero for the win.

The Spartans separated themselves by scoring four runs in the second inning, then two more in the third.

West Hall’s offense proved to support a strong pitching performance from Kyle Reynolds. The senior tossed six innings, giving up five runs on eight hits.

With one win on Friday, West Hall would hold the tie breaker over Lumpkin County before a three-game series against Banks County, the region’s last place team. Lumpkin County needs to win both to take hold of the tie breaker, then they’ll play current No. 2 team Dawson County.

The top spot in the region is out of reach with Franklin County sitting at 22-0 overall and 15-0 in region. The mark is good enough to have the Lions sitting atop the state rankings for Class AAA.

“We’re definitely going to try for the sweep,” said Sage. “Franklin is so good this year, nobody’s going to catch them. The next best thing is finishing second place and hosting a playoff game. That’s what we’re going after, which I believe is achievable.”

Sage said he feels his team will need to win out and Dawson County will have to lose a game to guarantee second place for the Spartans.

In order to do that, he said his team needs to work on the little things and eliminate the two errors it had in Tuesday’s game.

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