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Mill Creek does the little things for win

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

HOSCHTON -- Doing the little things is a key in winning any high school baseball game, especially in the always tight Region 7-AAAAA.

Mill Creek demonstrated that in its 5-3 victory over North Gwinnett on Monday at Fathers Field.

The No. 4 state-ranked and region-leading Hawks (13-5, 8-3) had many of the major elements of winning -- strong starting pitching in a complete-game effort from Cody Pugh (4-0), a few timely hits here and there and solid defense.

But they also executed those little things, such as capitalizing on three North (9-10, 4-7) errors, stealing six bases to get runner into scoring position -- four of which eventually scored -- and got a perfectly-executed squeeze bunt to create a single run in every inning except the first.

"It was almost out of necessity when you look at the (score) board at the end." Mill Creek coach Doug Jones said. "We manufactured a few things, got more breaks than they did. It probably allowed us to be two runs ahead when it was over."

The Mill Creek bats got things started right in the bottom of the second when Connor Kasten followed a leadoff single from Tim Hernandez with an RBI triple to the gap in right-center for a 1-0 lead.

From there, the Hawks managed to take whatever North would give them, and errors in the third, fourth and sixth gave them openings for unearned runs in each inning off Jordan Brown (4-3) who had a solid outing by giving up just two earned runs in six innings.

"Three unearned runs and not being able to hold a runners on base -- that's coaching. We're not doing a good enough job, obviously," North coach Frank Vashaw said. "They (Mill Creek) are a well-coached team. They're the kind of team you can't give extra outs. ... We've been playing better, but we're disappointed we didn't give ourselves more of a chance."

But Mill Creek worked for those runs by putting baserunners in motion for six steals -- two each from Chandler Boyd and Aryan Rodriguez -- and putting the ball in play when those runners reached scoring position.

For instance, Hernandez's sacrifice fly in the fifth, followed by Casey Parham's suicide squeeze bunt in the sixth were key in helping the Hawks stretch their lead to 5-0.

Mill Creek would need every one of those runs as North refused to quit despite the fact that Pugh was cruising to that point, shutting out the Bulldogs on just two hits and 74 pitches with four strikeouts through the first six innings.

Connor Jenkins (2-for-3) drove in one run with a hit and Seth Bancroft added two more RBIs with a hit to cut the deficit to 5-3.

But with the tying run at the plate, Pugh got Cole Willoughby to hit a high-chopper to short that Devin Bonin made the play on and threw to first for the final out.