Photo: Karl L. Moore. Dacula third baseman Michael Barnes (13) tags out Mill Creek's Ryan Sanders (15) during the first game of a doubleheader at Mill Creek on Wednesday.
HOSCHTON — Technically, Brian Stillwell’s outing in Game 2 of Mill Creek’s second-round Class AAAAA state playoff series against Dacula was not a perfect game.
But for Mill Creek students and fans, it was the perfect ending.
The senior right-hander faced the minimum in throwing his second no-hitter in less than three weeks in a 1-0 Mill Creek victory, giving the Hawks the doubleheader sweep Wednesday at Fathers Field.
The Hawks (24-6) got another complete-game pitching performance in the opener as Chip Fleming went the distance, supported by home runs from Nick Tillman and Devin Bonin, and held off a late Falcons rally for a 5-3 win.
“Whoever ends up winning (the state championship) is going to have good pitching,” said Mill Creek coach Doug Jones, whose team advanced to play at Hillgrove in next week’s state quarterfinals. “That’s a key, and I’m tickled to death for both (Stillwell and Fleming). They battled. They competed. They’re who they are. They don’t try to do too much. They know what their strengths are. And we play good defense (behind them).”
Indeed, defense was also a key in Wednesday’s doubleheader as the Hawks played errorless ball, and made a couple of key plays, including two in Game 2, and Tyler Jarvis was the victim both times.
The first came after Stillwell (8-2) allowed Travis Vanderhorst to reach on a wild pitch after striking him out.
Jarvis then hit a ball in the hole that Mitch Loving tracked down and flipped to second for the force out.
Bonin’s turn sailed over Tillman’s head at first, but bounced off the netting in front of the Dacula (18-12) dugout and right back to Tillman, who threw back to Bonin to get Jarvis as he tried for second for the unconventional 4-6-3-6 double play.
Mill Creek then literally stole a run in the top of the second when Connor Kasten blooped a single right, advanced to second on an error, took third on a fly ball following a walk to Aryan Rodriguez and came home on the back end of a double steal with Rodriguez, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
Jarvis then was victimized in the fourth after Brandyn Bartlett drew a leadoff walk. The Falcons’ senior sent a scorcher to first that Tillman nabbed and turned into a double play to keep Stillwell back on track to facing the minimum.
And he would take advantage by setting down the final 10 men he faced to clinch the no-hitter and the series.
It was the second no-hitter of Stillwell’s career, and the second clinching no-hitter after the one he threw April 29 at Norcross to clinch the Region 7-AAAAA title for Mill Creek.
“I know I can throw pitches because my defense is behind me,” Stillwell said. “My defense got me out of some jams, and apparently something’s clicking right now.”
Stillwell needed to be clicking because Jarvis (7-4) was throwing a gem of his own, allowing just the one unearned run on three hits with six strikeouts in going the distance.
“That’s how it is when you have two good teams play one another,” Dacula coach John Poitevint said. “Our guys fought. They played hard and made very (few) mistakes, but somebody’s going to make the plays, and (Thursday) night, they made more. ... Absolutely tip your cap (to Stillwell and Mill Creek). They’re to be congratulated.”
The Hawks also made just a few more plays in the opener, taking a 5-0 lead keyed by Tillman’s two-run homer in the bottom of the second and Bonin’s solo shot in the third.
But Dacula wasn’t about to go down without a fight, and the Falcons got on the board on Jarvis’ RBI single in the sixth to make the score 5-1.
Then in the seventh, Steven Williams led off with a double and Morgan Loyd reached on an infield single to short, and one out later, Williams came home on Michael Barnes’ RBI grounder to third, pulling Dacula to within 5-2.
Pinch hitter Chase Loyd then made it 5-3 by lining a single into right, and then attempted to move to second when the throw home went high.
But catcher Jerad Curry backed off the plate and caught the errant toss and fired a strike to Bonin covering at second for the final out of the game and giving Fleming (7-2) the complete game victory.
Fleming scattered six hits and three earned runs over seven innings with five strikeouts. Tillman, Rodriguez and Mitch Loving each had two hits for Mill Creek in Game 1.