Efficient pitching gave North Hall’s baseball program just the jolt it needed to make quick work of Hart County in a 5-1 and 11-0 two-game sweep against the Bulldogs to open the Class 3A state tournament Friday, April 27, at Jody Davis Field. In Game 1, Georgia Tech signee Reese Olson had 12 strikeouts and surrendered just four hits for the defending state champion Trojans (23-5), while junior left-hander Caleb Clark finished off the series with a complete-game, six-inning shutout against the Bulldogs (12-20).
Olson needed less than 80 pitches to get the job done in Game 1, according to Trojans coach Trevor Flow, while Clark was right at 80 pitches when the final out was recorded.
“That was probably Reese’s best outing of the year,” Flow said. “And Caleb did a great job, too.
“Overall, I’m extremely proud of how we played tonight.”
With the sweep, North Hall advances to host Lovett in the second round with another doubleheader Thursday in a best-of-three series at Jody Davis Field. Game time is still to be determined.
In the second game against Hart County, North Hall broke it wide open by three runs in the second inning and five more in the third. Clark, who finished with five hits and a walk from the lead-off spot in the Trojans’ batting order, pounded a bases-loaded triple off the wall to score three runs in the third inning, one inning after his two-run single for North Hall.
Even though this is largely a different team with its personnel that won the 2017 state title, North Hall has picked up right where it left off as it chases another ring.
“I feel like we’re rolling right now,” said Clark, who allowed just three hits over his first five innings on the mound. “Starting the playoffs off well means a ton to all 17 players in our dugout.”
North Hall locked up the series sweep in large part due to the struggles of Hart County’s pitchers to find the strike zone. In Game 2, North Hall batters drew nine walks and three times had a batter hit by a pitch. As the playoffs get further, Flow wants his Trojans to tighten up the situational hitting and plate discipline.
“We’re going to start seeing some better pitching and see more strikes from the other teams’ pitchers,” Flow said. “Today, we watched on some fastballs for strikes and swung at curveballs out of the strike zone.”
Tied 1-1 in the fifth inning of the first game, Clark and David Seavey singled, followed by a two-run double by Charlie Erickson to give Olson all the cushion he would need after giving up a run on a double by C.J. Sanford. Olson also picked off runners twice on a throwback between second and third base.
North Hall’s hard-throwing lefty was just as good in Game 2 as his senior teammate by getting ahead in the count and getting Bulldogs hitters to swing at pitches out of the strike zone.
Flow intends to keep the pitching order the same for the second round against Lovett. Mark Swett will be ready to go in Game 3, North Hall’s coach said.
“We’d like to get Mark in there to pitch, but when we don’t that means the other two guys have done a really good job,” Flow said.
Caden Bales had a run-scoring double for the Trojans, executed a sacrifice bunt in his final at bat of the first game and was twice hit by a pitch in Game 2.