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Stars rally to force a Game 3

AUGUSTA -- Two big innings played major roles in deciding Providence Christian's fate Tuesday at Aquinas. One rally hurt and one helped.

The Stars gave up seven runs in the second inning of Game 1 in Tuesday's Class A quarterfinal baseball series and tried to rally before losing 8-6. The nightcap went the opposite way.

Providence (19-13) scored 14 third-inning runs to spark a 15-4 win in a Game 2 that was shortened to five innings by the run rule. The two teams play again today at 3 p.m. with a berth in the state semifinals on the line.

A sweep would have been possible had the Stars not gotten off to a slow start in the opener, falling behind 8-0 after two innings. Starter Billy Mangum settled down from there, allowing his team to battle back within two runs. In the top of the seventh inning, the tying runners were on second and third but a nice play on a grounder by the Aquinas shortstop ended the threat.

"I'm really proud of the way they battled in Game 1," Providence head coach Adam Cantrell said. "They didn't quit when they got behind."

The hot hitting continued into Game 2 as the visitors pounded out 17 hits, led by a 4-for-4 game with three RBIs from Alan Skinner. Austin Smith was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, Nick Stidham was 2-for-4 with a three-run home run and Mangum was 2-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs. Christin Stewart was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and Tyler Brown was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Kevin Dodson (4-5) was the winning pitcher, allowing three earned runs and seven hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked none.

Mangum (4-2) struggled early in Game 1, but was solid down the stretch. He went six innings, allowed seven earned runs and 14 hits and had four strikeouts with one walk.

Stewart's three-run homer in the fifth inning gave the Stars a spark in the opener, as did Brown (3-for-4, RBI) and Smith (2-for-4, double run). Steven Slaughter also had a big two-run, pinch hit in the sixth inning.

Providence swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs, eliminating Darlington and Region 8-A champion Hebron Christian. But Aquinas (23-9) has proven to be a tougher battle.

Walker, which swept Irwin County on Tuesday, awaits the winner in next week's Final Four.