MARIETTA -- Walton got a little payback against North Paulding on Thursday night in the second round of the Class AAAAAAA state tournament at Raider Mountain.
When the teams met in the playoffs a year ago, North Paulding spoiled Walton’s season after rallying from four runs down in the top of the seventh before winning in extra innings.
Although Thursday’s doubleheader played out a little differently, it was Walton which rallied from a 5-1 deficit and held on to win 6-5 in 10 innings on Jared Jones's walk-off single, then went on to finish the series with a one-sided 11-2 victory.
“We just hung in there long enough to where we can get something happening, and we were very fortunate to get Game 1,” Walton coach Shane Amos said. “That’s a very good baseball team over there, and we played very well.”
Walton (23-9-1) moved onto the state quarterfinals and a best-of-three series next week at Parkview.
Walton went up against North Paulding starter and Georgia Tech commit Zac Maxwell in the opener. Although the Raiders drew walks -- they had nine against Maxwell in five innings -- they only had one hit.
In the fourth inning, with North Paulding (25-8) ahead 5-1, Walton's batters chose to see more pitches in hopes that they would either raise Maxwell's pitch count or get a pitch they like to hit.
“(Maxwell’s) been throwing a lot of pitches and a lot of balls,” Amos said. “We decided to take some and get his pitch count up and, if anything, get him out of the game.”
Although it didn’t faze Maxwell, who gave up one run on one hit and threw 10 strikeouts, the strategy started paying off in the sixth when reliever Tyler Roon entered the game.
With one out, John Giesler got Walton’s second hit of the game before Jones connected with a two-run single that cut Walton’s deficit in half. Brandon Nikitaides followed with an RBI hit before Jones scored the tying run on an error.
In the 10th inning, Walton had bases loaded with one out when Jones delivered the game-winning single that nearly hit the center-field wall.
“The at-bat before that, I got the same pitch at 3-0 and I missed it, and that kind of made me mad,” Jones said. “I told myself that, if I got that (pitch) again, don’t miss it, and I got it again.”
The win was enough motivation for Walton to dominate the nightcap.
After scoring six runs in the second inning and three more in the third, the Raiders nearly won by the run rule, but the Wolfpack got one run back in the bottom of the fifth.
Jones started the six-run barrage in the second with a solo home run before Nikitaides followed with a single and Bobby Spencer went deep to open a 3-0 lead. Ben Anderson got an infield hit before Justin Carr doubled him home to go up 4-0 with still no outs. Gallo got a sacrifice fly for an RBI, and Giesler added an RBI hit to cap the scoring.
In the fourth inning, Micaiah Williams singled home Spencer, while Walton’s last two runs were scored on a fielder’s choice and an error.