A superb outing on the mound helped get the Hardaway baseball team off to a good start in a doubleheader on Thursday. Lackluster batting and a couple fielding errors held it back.
All in all, it was a wash for the Hawks as they split two games with visiting Northgate in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs, forcing a decisive game three at 2 p.m. Friday. Hardaway won the first game 1-0, but dropped the second 5-4.
Game three, which was originally scheduled for 4:30 p.m., was moved up to avoid potential inclement weather that could postpone the rubber match.
Coach Chris Gilstrap and the Hawks approached the series knowing it wasn’t a typical first-round matchup. Gilstrap stated on Tuesday that he expected a tough series from the Vikings, who come from one of the tougher divisions in the state. Northgate didn’t disappoint.
“They’re not a traditional 1-4 matchup,” Gilstrap said again after Thursday’s doubleheader. “Getting through the first round may be the toughest part of it.”
While the Northgate pitching certainly did its part to reiterate that sentiment, Hardaway’s first-game starter Cedric Brown made things look easy for seven innings.
Brown pitched a complete-game one-hitter, striking out seven and walking just a single batter. The one hit came from the first batter in the game. After that, Brown was nearly perfect. He never faced more than four batters in an inning, walking one in the second and allowing one to reach on an error in the seventh.
On the season, Brown is now 10-0 and has given up only six earned runs in 74 innings.
“You’d expect that from a guy that throws 95, 96 miles per hour,” Gilstrap said. “He just throws strikes and gets ahead of hitters.”
Brown said after the game that he felt like his fastball was working, but everything else was “a little iffy.”
“I just wanted to get that first win,” he said.
It was important that he did put together such an impressive performance, because the Hawks’ bats stayed quiet for most of the afternoon.
They didn’t pick up their lone run of the first game until the fifth inning, when Blake Rupp walked, stole second and came around to score on an RBI single from Will Griggs. All total, Hardaway managed just five hits in the first game. Matt Farmakis was the hard-luck loser for Northgate, pitching a complete game in the loss.
Hardaway managed just six hits in the second game. After falling behind 1-0 after an inning, it took a brief 2-1 lead in the second. Northgate, however, scored runs in each of the first five innings to take a 5-2 lead. The Hawks had chances late, scoring one in the sixth and one in the seventh, but they couldn’t manage to bring across the tying run.
On a play that summed up the entire game, Josh Anthony hit a hard line drive that was snagged by Northgate pitcher Robert Massenburg to end the game.
“We’ve had a tendency the last couple of weeks of getting ourselves out,” Gilstrap said. “Maybe we’re not being selective enough.”
“The bats just weren’t there today,” Brown said simply.
Justin Ellison provided one of the only bright spots offensively for Hardaway, knocking a solo home run deep over the right-field wall with two outs in the sixth inning.
Trevon Dorsey pitched a complete game in the loss for Hardaway, scattering 10 Northgate hits and giving up just three earned runs. The Hawks committed three errors in the second game.
“Nothing changes overnight in baseball,” Gilstrap said. “We’ve played defense well all year. In the playoffs against good teams, extra outs always come back to bite you.”
Massenburg picked up the win for Northgate.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.
Thursday at Hardaway
Northgate 000 000 0—0 1 0
Hardaway 000 010 x—1 5 1
WP—Brown. LP—Farmakis. Leading hitters—Hardaway, Griggs 1 for 2, RBI.
Hardaway 020 001 1—4 6 3
Northgate 111 110 x—5 10 2
WP—Massenburg. LP—Dorsey. Leading hitters—Hardaway, Ellison 1 for 3, HR, RBI, Griggs 1 for 3, RBI; Northgate, Poropatic 2 for 3, RBI, Upshaw 3 for 4, J. Schmits 1 for 2, 2B, 2 RBIs. Records—Hardaway, 23-5; Northgate, 19-8. Next—Northgate at Hardaway at 2 p.m. Friday.