ALPHARETTA -- Duluth got quality pitching for 13 of the 14 innings, but that one bad inning led to a split in Wednesday's doubleheader with Alpharetta in the second round of the Class AAAAA baseball state tournament to force a deciding Game 3.
Duluth looked strong in an 11-3 win over Alpharetta in the opener, but the Raiders used the long ball in the nightcap and took a 5-2 win over the Wildcats.
Game 3 will be today at Alpharetta with first pitch set for 5:55 p.m.
Leading 1-0 heading to the top half of the fourth in Game 2, Duluth (20-10) watched as the Alpharetta bats awakened with three home runs -- two with two outs as the Raiders moved out to a 3-1 lead.
Solo blasts by Kenneth Reynolds, Cameron Stadele and Dimitri Kourtis from the 3, 5 and 6 spots in the lineup energized Alpharetta (17-12), which had managed just three runs in the first 10 innings of Wednesday's twinbill.
From there, it was Kourtis who was dominant on the mound for the Raiders. The senior right-hander limited Duluth to just three hits while striking out eight and walking three en route to the complete game victory.
"(Kourtis) was tough on us tonight and he just beat us, that's all there is to it," said Duluth head coach Matt Champitto. "We didn't play poorly at all and I think we just ran into a good pitcher."
The story was different in Game 1 as Duluth put up a nine-spot on Alpharetta in the second inning and cruised home with the eight-run win.
The Wildcats sent 15 batters to the plate and took advantage of some shaky Raiders' defense to post the big inning.
Three walks, two batters hit-by-pitch, three Alpharetta errors and four Duluth hits paved the way for Duluth roar ahead.
The key hit in the inning came when senior Eric Sutor's single to left subsequently cleared the bases as the Raiders committed their third and final error of the inning, giving Duluth a 6-0 lead and clear sailing for pitcher John Clark.
The senior left-hander worked a complete game, scattering nine hits while striking out three and walking two. Clark also went 2-for-4 at the plate with a run scored.
Junior Edward Willemse led the Duluth hitting attack, going 2-for-4 with three runs scored. Evan Dumas also had a pair of hits, including a double, and reached base four times for the Wildcats. Noah Hoback also had two hits Duluth.
"We'll be ready tomorrow," said Champitto. "We've already been in a deciding game just a few days ago, so that will help us. (Alpharetta) hasn't been in this position yet of having to play a deciding game, so we'll just see how it goes. These are two good teams and it should be a great game."