KENNESAW — For the first time this season, Mount Paran Christian lost to a Class A private school at home.
The Eagles lost Game 1 of their state quarterfinal matchup against Tattnall Square 5-4, which put them in a must-win situation in Game 2. The young squad, which does not have a senior in the starting lineup, answered with a four-run first inning, on the way to a 7-1 victory.
Mount Paran coach Kyle Reese said the early rally allowed the team to relax and play the kind of baseball it has all season.
“They knew they were back on their game,” Reese said. “It put the juice back into the dugout.”
What it also means is there will be a Game 3 to determine which team will face Fellowship Christian in the state semifinals. However, instead of that game being played Tuesday, it will be delayed until Wednesday at 5:55 p.m. Tattnall Square, which is in Macon, was set to have its senior assembly Tuesday, and the extra day was agreed upon by the coaches prior to the series.
Facing elimination for the first time, Mount Paran (24-4) took control of Game 2 early.
Alex Adams led off with a double to right and came around to score on Cam Collier’s fielder’s choice grounder, which was misplayed into an error. After Collier stole second, John Fitzpatrick followed with an RBI double and moved to third on an infield hit by Tyler Minnick.
Mount Paran pushed the lead to 3-0 when Tattnall Square starter Carter Fink was called for a balk to bring in Fitzpatrick and send Minnick to second, and Minnick scored on Tate McKee’s RBI single.
The Eagles added to the lead with Luke Dotson’s solo home run in the fourth. Fitzpatrick scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, and Dotson’s RBI single scored Minnick in the seventh.
The lead was more than enough for Collier, who pitched a complete-game four-hitter. He allowed one run, struck out eight and faced adversity only twice — with Tattnall Square (24-4) running itself out of the inning both times.
With two on and two out in the third, Hunter Alexander got the Trojans on the board with an RBI single to center. The throw came in to the catcher, Minnick, who then threw to second to get Alexander trying to advance to second.
Collier headed to the seventh averaging just over 11 pitches an inning, and after getting the first two outs, he gave up a walk and a single. With a 2-1 count, his next pitch was low and Minnick had the ball bounce off his glove, but instead of it going to the side or behind him, it popped straight up in the air. Minnick grabbed it barehanded and threw a strike to third to cut down the runner trying to take the extra base.
“It looked like he ran out of gas there in the seventh,” Reese said of Collier. “Going into the seventh right at 70 pitches was very efficient.”
Efficient was one thing Mount Paran was not in Game 1.
The Eagles left runners in scoring position in the first, second, third, fifth and seventh innings. In all, they left 11 men on base, including leaving the bases loaded in the third.
Reese said it took his squad a long time to adjust to Tattnall Square starting pitcher Bo Hatcher and said it was a testament to the way Hatcher was pitching.
“He did a good job keeping us off-balance,” Reese said. “Every time he needed it, he was getting the ground ball to get out of the inning.”
With the Trojans leading 1-0 heading to the fourth, Fink made it 2-0 with a home run to right, but Mount Paran finally got on the board in the bottom half of the inning. The Eagles scored single runs in the fourth and fifth to cut the deficit to 3-2, but Tattnall Square used a double from Fink, a single by Russ Miller, an RBI groundout by Hatcher and a sacrifice fly by Ben Stubbs to make it 5-2.
Mount Paran got an RBI single from Collier in the sixth and then loaded the bases in the seventh with only one out. Kyle Crisp brought in Dotson with a sacrifice fly, but Minnick, the potential tying run, was stranded at third when the final out was made.
The loss was only the second of the year at home for the Eagles. The other came March 9 against Class AAAAAAA Harrison.
Reese said he believes the team can avoid a third home loss Wednesday.
“Our kids play hard,” he said. “(Tattnall Square) is a good ball club, but I like the way our guys bounced back.”