Broncos, Devils split second-round series

SNELLVILLE - Brookwood's baseball team scored at least one run in every inning of Game 1 on Wednesday.

It scored nothing in Game 2.

Norcross pitcher Taylor Rakes was the reason.

The Blue Devil senior blanked the top-ranked Broncos 1-0 with a three-hitter, giving Norcross a split of its Class AAAAA second-round series at Brookwood. The Broncos won Game 1 9-0 with the help of a one-hitter from Chase Hawkins.

But Brookwood couldn't get a split because of Rakes, who sent his team to a Game 3 today at 6 p.m. against a team ranked first nationally by USA Today.

"I didn't want to stop (playing), especially being a senior," said Rakes, who also shut down Woodstock in Norcross' first-round series. "It goes back to the Woodstock game. You get a lot of confidence, you know you can do it and you believe in the guys behind you. It's a heck of an experience. The last two games have been my best."

Rakes struck out seven batters and hit two, facing his only danger in the third inning when Brookwood put the first two hitters on base. But he picked a runner off second base, then retired the next two batters.

The right-hander and Tusculum College signee cruised from there, getting stronger as the game progressed. He threw an economical 89-pitch game.

"Unbelievable. I'm speechless," Norcross coach Andy Collins said of Rakes. "You can't put that into words. He's done it twice in a row. To get beat 9-0 and then come back with that kind of pitching performance. It's like I told the guys, (losing Game 1) just creates opportunities for guys to step up. And obviously he did."

Brookwood head coach Rick Howard described Rakes' game the same way after his Broncos (27-3) were held to fewer than three runs for the first time all season.

"That was unbelievable," Howard said. "He really threw the ball well. He handled the ball game. It was his ball game."

Norcross (21-9) got its lone run when Georgia signee Tyler Maloof, after being out all year with a shoulder injury, had a third-inning RBI single to score Danal Slay.

It was all the Blue Devils could muster off Bronco starter Alex Beebe, who suffered his first loss of the season, falling to 8-1.

The right-hander struck out seven batters and walked three, escaping two bases-loaded jams with minimal damage.

Hawkins was brilliant in Game 1, pitching his one-hitter on 97 (70 strikes). He had eight strikeouts, walked two and faced only 25 batters.

The senior left-hander allowed only a fourth-inning single to Peter Poole.

The Broncos never got a big inning for Hawkins, but they didn't need it because they scored at least once in every inning of the opener. They had two home runs, four doubles and a triple.

Seth Adkins did a good bit of the damage, finishing a single shy of the cycle. His three-run home run in the first inning got the hosts going and he later added a triple and a double. He also scored three runs.

Ross Heffley (2-for-4, double, RBI) and Ronnie Freeman (2-for-3, two RBIs) also had multi-hit Game 1s, while Jon Robinson ripped a two-run homer.

After Adkins' homer, Brookwood got a run in the second on back-to-back doubles from Jordan Erisman and Heffley. Erisman drew a bases loaded walk in the third for another run, then Freeman had an RBI single in the fourth.

Robinson hit his homer in the fifth and Freeman had a sacrifice fly in the sixth after Adkins' triple.

Norcross ace Forrest Garrett didn't have much luck against the hard-hitting Broncos. The left-hander allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 12 hits. He had five strikeouts and three walks.

"It was exactly what you wanted in Game 1, you hit a three-run homer and Chase is on the hill," Howard said. "And what an outstanding job he did tonight."

Brookwood will give Matt Adams the start in Game 3 while Norcross will start Tyler Roach or Jacob Matthews.