Sloan allowed two earned runs, nine hits and struck out five in a complete game to give Mustangs coach George Hansen his 300th career victory and provide Kennesaw Mountain with a 5-2 victory at Harrison.
Hansen’s 300th win came in his 13th year at Kennesaw Mountain (15-5, 8-2 Region 4AAAAAA), which recorded its sixth consecutive victory to remain atop the region standings with five region games left.
A North Cobb graduate and protégé of longtime Cobb County coach Harvey Cochran, Hansen is in his 16th year as a head coach overall, which includes three years at Pebblebrook.
“It’s great to get 300, but I’m really happy we won,” said Hansen, who launched Kennesaw Mountain’s program in 2001. “This is a tight region.”
Hansen acknowledged the former and current coaches, as well as the players, who have contributed to his success and longevity. He singled out Cochran and current Mustangs assistants Brian Nelson and Rich Oria.
Hansen also credited the late Tim Crunk, a former assistant of his who went on to serve as the athletic director at Kennesaw Mountain and Sprayberry before dying of a heart attack in 2012.
“When I think about 300 wins, I think about those guys,” Hansen said. “They all hold a special place in making this happen. But I’m most proud of all the players because they won those 300 games with me.
“I’m proud of the fact they all come back, and even some of the kids I coached at Pebblebrook call and text me sometimes to see how things are going. It’s about those connections with coaches, and with the kids that have made this all worthwhile.”
Family also had an effect on Hansen.
“My dad taught me about balance,” he said. “Have the kids respect you, but you can always have a good time, too. He preached fun and discipline, and I owe my coaching style to him. If I have a strength as a coach, that must be it, because my kids respect me, but they also know we can have a good time, too.”
Coaching runs in the Hansen family, which includes George’s younger brother, Allatoona coach Keith Hansen.
“Tell my brother, he needs to catch up,” George said of Keith, who’s at 230 career wins.
Kennesaw Mountain started strong Wednesday, taking a 3-0 lead through four innings.
Alex Darwiche led off the second with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Pinch-runner Ben Sparks replaced Darwiche before scoring on Matt Cole’s sacrifice fly.
Two mistakes in the third allowed leadoff batter Michael Atkinson to score. He reached on a throwing error to begin the frame and later scored on a wild pitch.
Another leadoff error in the fourth allowed another run to score.
After Darwiche took first on the error, he moved to second on a Ryley Gilliam’s second sacrifice bunt of the game and scored on Cole Buffington’s single.
The three-run advantage was just enough for Sloan and the Mustangs. Harrison scored twice in the fifth behind Tanner Weeks’ RBI single and Cole Austin’s RBI triple to trim the deficit to 3-2.
But Kennesaw Mountain added some insurance runs back in the sixth and seventh, with Reggie Pruitt’s RBI single and Zach Teem’s solo home run.
Pruitt batted 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Mustangs, who totaled 10 hits. Atkinson singled and scored, while Tyler Stephenson was 3-for-4. Teem was 1-for-4 with an RBI, and Buffington batted 3-for-3 with an RBI and scored a run.
“We love coach,” Sloan said. “He’s done so much for us. The least we could do was get him this win and get him to 300. We were determined. We played hard, stuck to the plan and got it done.
“We’re so excited for him. This is a special year for us and it’s a great milestone for him. It’s great to do this for him.”
Weeks was 2-for-4 with an RBI for Harrison, and Austin batted 1-for-2 with a triple and an RBI. Jayson Cook had two singles, as did Andrew Patrick, who also scored a run. Hayden Messina and Tyler Elkins each batted 1-for-3, and Messina scored a run.
Chandler Firestine gave up three runs — one earned — on six hits and struck out three in 3 2/3 innings. Andrew Burchell allowed one earned run on three hits in 2 1/3 innings, and Ben Brock gave up one run on one hit in the seventh.
“We had our hands full with Sloan on the mound,” said Harrison coach Mark Elkins, who earned his 300th win earlier this season. “He held us at bay, and we didn’t play a clean game mentally or physically. We made mistakes and Kennesaw Mountain took advantage.
“Hansen’s a great guy with a great club and I welcome him to the (300-wins) club.”