One more for the crown in Houston County-Loganville series

Thanks to Mitchell Miller and D.L. Hall, the second game of the GHSA Class AAAAA championship series Monday looked for a while like it could have gone on deep into the night.

The two left-handers were often masterful against the other team’s lineup, although Hall left the game in the fifth inning.

It was downhill after that for the Bears as some strategy backfired in the bottom of the sixth, and Loganville scored three runs for a 4-1 win in the nightcap to force a final championship game at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Houston County, Loganville split first two games of GHSA baseball championship series

The Bears and Red Devils will play a deciding Game 3 for the Georgia state baseball championship Tuesday, May 24, 2016, in Warner Robins.

Brad Harrisonsports@macon.com

The Bears intentionally walked two batters in the bottom of the sixth with the game tied at 1, but Marcellus Campbell earned a walk for a run and 2-1 lead.

Then shortstop Tucker Garland hurried a throw to first on a tough grounder, and it was wide, allowing two more runs to score for a 4-1 Loganville lead.

Mitchell then got the Bears in order to finish off the three-hitter. Hall and relief pitcher Tyler Flewellyn combined for a three-hitter, too.

Loganville took advantage of some struggles by Hall to push a run across in the fifth on a wild pitch. The same thing happened against the Red Devils in the sixth, this time allowing courtesy runner Logan Morris to score the tying run for Houston County.

Then things went Loganville’s way in the bottom of the sixth.

Houston County’s three-run fifth inning propelled it to a 7-3 win in the first game.

Hall had some ups and downs, his game ending shortly after giving up the run, with 10 strikeouts, six walks and only two hits allowed. Two of the walks, plus a hit batter, came in that fifth.

Flewellyn got out of a jam, then doubled in the fifth. Morris ran for him and scored the game-tying run.

The Bears intentionally walked two batters in the sixth with two outs, but the walks didn’t pay off for Houston County.

The Red Devils seemed to be sharper for a while than the Bears, taking a 3-1 lead after two in the first game.

Houston County got one in the third and trailed 3-2.

Winning pitcher Tony Locey was fairly inconsistent — he retired the side in order once and faced at least two baserunners in every other inning – but got out of jams, often with strikeouts.

Loganville’s Timothy Elliott had no such luck in the fifth, when the Bears scored three times. The Red Devils botched a pickoff when Blake Dawson took off too early from second. He reached third and Hall second.

Jake Fromm’s short double — a pop to short right in no man’s land — brought in a run, and then two came in when second baseman Carson McMullers bobbled an odd grounder up the middle, and made an off-target flip to second base.

That put the Bears up 5-3 after five. Locey stranded two runners in the top of the sixth, and then a two-run bomb to left from Fromm with two outs in the bottom of the sixth sealed it.

The overflow crowd saw some roller coaster pitching from a pair of Georgia-bound — or major league draft — pitchers.

Locey left after six innings with 11 strikeouts on 118 pitches, with eight hits, three walks and one hit batter. Tanner Hall got the save.

Elliott went the distance and fanned 12 with three walks and eight hits, but got tagged with seven runs, four earned.

FOUR WHO MATTERED

Fromm: The junior third baseman opened his final series with the team — he’ll enroll early at Georgia in January — with two hits, three RBI and his third homer of the season. It was Fromm’s first three-RBI game since April 8 against Jones County.

Lawson Trawick: The Bears’ junior catcher racked up some bruises trying to keep low pitches in front of him, and did quite well, with one passed ball in the opener. It was rougher in the second game, with three wild pitches and a passed ball.

Jonathan Lee: The Red Devils’ first baseman had two of his team’s eight hits in the opener and drove in a run.

Mitchell: The Mississippi State signee didn’t let the Bears get any momentum. He retired 10 straight at one point and escaped some quality trouble in the sixth with a strikeout.

WORTH MENTIONING

Clutch: The top four batters in Houston County’s lineup — Blake Dawson, D.L. Hall, Fromm and Tanner Hall — were strong in the first game, going 7-for-13 with five RBI and six runs scored.

Ouch: Loganville’s Gabe Knight and Brandin Nixon each struck out three times in the first game.

Ouch II: Loganville stranded nine runners, to six for Houston County, in the first game. Oddly, those were the same numbers for both teams in the nightcap.

Oddity: For a game in which the starters struck out 23 batters, each lineup was retired in order only once in the opener.

On target, off target: D.L. Hall and Flewellyn teamed for 11 strikeouts and four walks, including the two intentional by Flewellyn.

Impressive: Loganville got a pair of complete games, Elliott and Mitchell — each headed to the SEC at Georgia and Mississippi State — combining for 22 strikeouts and seven walks.

Good timing: Houston County got the leadoff batter in the first game only once, in the key fifth innng.

Then again: The Bears did that in the first two innings of the nightcap but couldn’t convert.

One game left, another Game 3: Tanner Hall turned in one of the Bears’ best pitching performances of the season in the Houston County’s Game 3 win last week over Gainesville, and will get the ball on Tuesday. In the Red Devils’ 5-3 third-game win over South Effingham, Ryan English fanned four and walked one in five innings – throwing a fairly efficient 83 pitches – while Drew Franklin pitched two shutout innings for the save.

THEY SAID IT

Houston County head coach Jason Brett: “It’s a state championship, and it’s an emotional roller coaster already with the fans out here and just the hype that’s around the game. These guys coming in, they’re a good baseball team. You have the peaks and the valleys. Things go your way and then they don’t go your way, and you’ve got to manage those things.”

Houston County pitching coach Matt Hopkins on Locey’s night: “A lot of people don’t know this, but he’s had a bad back since the Gainesville series. We weren’t sure if he was going to be able to pitch. He’s been really rehabbing it. He comes out, those guys jump on him and he could’ve folded, but he really battled. We had a pitch count and he actually wouldn’t let us use it. He said, ‘You’re not taking me out,’ and when a guy like that tells you something like that, I’m going to trust him.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Loganville visits Houston County at 6 p.m. on Tuesday for the championship.

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