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Pesky Hawks force pivotal game

DALLAS - Those pesky Hawks won't go away.

Johnny Knight's hit in the bottom of the eighth lifted Mill Creek to a 4-3 win over East Paulding in Game 2 of Wednesday's second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

The victory forced a Game 3 for today at 5:55 p.m. East Paulding won the first game 9-0.

"We're still hanging around," Mill Creek coach Doug Jones said.

Mill Creek (20-10) reached the playoffs as a No. 4 seed out of Region 7-AAAAA and knocked off Region 8 champ South Gwinnett in the first round. The Hawks are just one win away from taking down three-time region champ East Paulding (21-10). The winner of the series will face the Lowndes-Chapel Hill winner.

"I'm overjoyed right now," Jones said.

Mill Creek went with its ace Matthew Grimes in Game 2 and the junior struggled the first two innings. East Paulding's Zack Gonosz, a Kent State football signee, hit a solo homer to left field in the first inning. Michael Goodman was the next batter and followed with his second homer of the series to the left-field pole.

Mill Creek's Greg Brody cut the deficit in half with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the first. Jacob German walked and Eric Alonzo (3-for-4) drove in courtesy runner Chandler Bryd to tie the game 2-2.

Jacob Forrest got the lead back for East Paulding with a solo homer to right field to leadoff the second inning. Grimes settled down after that and only allowed four hits the rest of the game. He struck out 10 in eight innings.

"I tip my hat to their pitcher," East Paulding coach Tony Boyd said. "We got to him early, but he didn't quit. We knew he was a good one and after seeing him I know for sure."

Mill Creek's Buck Fleming hit a sacrifice fly to score Travis Hammond and tie the game 3-3 in the bottom of the second.

The Hawks put a runner on third in the bottom of the seventh, but couldn't bring home the winning run. The next inning, Jerad Curry led off with a hit and Devon Bonin came in as a courtesy runner. The sophomore stole second and a hit up the middle from Knight (2-for-4) brought home the winning run.

"We were fortunate we stole that bag and got him in scoring position," Jones said.

Mill Creek faced East Paulding's ace, Zach Wheeler, in Game 1. The Kennesaw State signee had a number of pro scouts on hand to watch. The senior right-hander threw a no-hitter, striking out 13 and walking three in the 9-0 victory.

"He's pretty darn good," Boyd said. "He didn't have his best stuff against Kell the other night. I think he was back to that tonight. He's a special one."

Mill Creek put a runner on second in the second inning and a runner on third in the seventh, but never threatened to score.

"(Wheeler) shoved it," Jones said. "We get no-hit and strikeout 13 times. He shoved it."

East Paulding broke the game open in the fourth. Steven Nix led off with a solo home run to right field. Three batters later, Tyler Sims' double drove in a run and that was it for Mill Creek starter Brian Holmes.

The senior allowed three hits and two walks in 32/3 innings and gave up six runs while striking out four.

Eric Osetkowski came on in relief and allowed two doubles and a single as East Paulding built its lead to 8-0. The Raiders had 10 hits in the game.

"That was quick and painless," Jones quipped. "It was 3-0 and we let the wheels fall off."

Michael Goodman hit a solo home run over the scoreboard in left field in the second inning. East Paulding also scored a run in the third on a sacrifice fly and a run in the fifth on a Tyler Sims double.