ALPHARETTA — In a winner-take-all Game 3 in the second round of the Class AAAAA baseball state playoffs, it only took a small opening for Alpharetta to strike quickly and post a 6-3 comeback victory over Duluth.
Down 3-2 heading to the bottom of the sixth, Alpharetta got things started with a leadoff walk by Tyler Agard and took a 4-3 lead three pitches later on a two-run homer by Kenneth Reynolds over the center-field wall.
Just like that, Duluth, looking at a one-run lead with six outs to get, was trailing by one.
But Alpharetta wasn’t finished as the Raiders added two big insurance runs on an RBI single by Cameron Stadele to plate Cody Carpenter and a two-out double by Harrison Hunter to score Stadele.
That proved to be big as Duluth put two runners on in the top half of the seventh and sent the potential tying run to the plate.
Evan Dumas led off with a single and Alex Raffensperger doubled two outs later to put runners at second and third.
But Alpharetta got the final out as Carpenter, brought on in relief of Raiders’ starter Taylor Hall, struck out the side and recorded his eighth save by getting John Clark to finish the game.
Throughout the game, it appeared Duluth might post a big inning and set the stage for a Game 3 win.
But the Wildcats couldn’t come up with the big hit and eventually settled for single runs in the third, fourth and sixth.
An RBI double by Duluth’s David Matton chased home Edward Willemse to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the third and Clark gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead in the fourth on an RBI double to score Raffensperger.
Alpharetta answered in the bottom of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Dimitri Kourtis to tie the game at 2-2.
Duluth took the 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Willemse to score Noah Hoback.
However, Duluth can look back on this game as one of missed opportunities as the Wildcats stranded eight base runners — one each in the second, third, fourth and fifth along with two each in the sixth and seventh. Five of those were left in scoring position.
“We didn’t have a real good approach early in the game,” said Duluth head coach Matt Champitto. “Their left-hander (Hall) did a good job of working the outside of the plate. But we had a lot of fly balls being hit hard and off the wall in the outfield that looked like they just got held up. And then we made a good pitch away and had it in the right spot and their guy (Reynolds) put a good swing on it.
Chris Rich, who took the loss for Duluth, allowed five runs on just four hits while striking out three in five-plus innings and didn’t allow an Alpharetta hit until the fourth.
Meanwhile, Hall was just as solid for the Raiders as the left-hander gave up three runs on seven hits, struck out three and walked just one.
“It’s pretty emotional right now,” said Champitto. “It’s hard to say anything about the season right now and it’s tough on these seniors. But we’ve accomplished a lot and did do a lot of good things this year.”