After entering the state tournament as one of the hottest teams from Region 1-4A, the Hardaway Hawks found a way to keep their season alive Saturday.
The Hawks made the most of the deciding third game against Burke County, scoring five runs in the fifth inning and five in the sixth to beat the Bears 10-6. The surge made the game’s early-inning pitching duel a thing of the past and allowed Hardaway (15-14) to move on to the second round.
Jonathan Manibusan started the rally in noteworthy fashion, legging out a triple to open the fifth inning. Mykel Page, who was the starting pitcher for the Hawks, came through in the next at-bat, singling to bring Manibusan home and put a run on the board. Chris Black’s double followed by Kevin Henry getting hit by a pitch left the bases loaded for the Hawks.
From there, the Hawks soared while the wheels fell off for the Bears.
Hunter Duke walked to tie the score before Jordan Manibusan was hit by a pitch, giving Hardaway its first lead of the game. Alex Bermiss then doubled to left field, scoring two more Hawks and creating a 5-2 lead.
Hardaway tacked on five more runs in the sixth. After two more Hawks were hit by pitches, Henry hit a three-run home run, his first fences-clearing blast of the season. The Hawks’ long-ball antics weren’t done there, as Bermiss followed with a two-run shot of his own.
Burke County (18-6) managed four runs in the sixth inning but ultimately could not whittle enough of the Hawks’ lead away.
The Hawks faced dire straits after dropping Friday’s Game 1 3-0, forcing them to win the second game of the day or go home. As it turned out, Hardaway wasted no time in making that happen.
Kevin Henry’s two-out double in the bottom of the first plated the first Hawks run of the day, but as it turns out, the hit was not the team’s biggest of the half-inning. That smack came courtesy Duke, who belted a two-run home run over the wall in left field to put his team up 3-0.
Hardaway tacked on three more runs in the third inning. Chris Black’s single to right field gave Page plenty of time to reach home from second base, creating a 4-0 lead for the road team. Three batters later, Jordan Manibusan singled as well, plating Black and Henry.
Page scored again in the next inning on a wild pitch for Hardaway’s seventh and final run.
Hardaway’s pitching in Friday’s second game matched the offense’s strong showing. Page pitched the opening three innings before giving way to Tristan Driver, who handled the final four innings of play. Between Page and Driver, the Hawks recorded eight strikeouts and only surrendered two hits.
Page’s limited use Friday set up for his strong work on Saturday. He handled the first five innings for the Hawks, allowing only two hits and no earned runs.
Hardaway advances to the second round, where it will play at Troup County. The best-of-three series begins Thursday.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports