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Stars win first game 27-18, but split series

Photo: David McGregor. Providence's Austin Loyd (6) points to the sky after hitting a home run during the Stars' 27-18 victory over King's Ridge in Game 1 of the best-of-three series in the Class A state quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Photo: David McGregor. Providence's Austin Loyd (6) points to the sky after hitting a home run during the Stars' 27-18 victory over King's Ridge in Game 1 of the best-of-three series in the Class A state quarterfinals on Tuesday.

LILBURN -- Tuesday's doubleheader between Providence Christian Academy and King's Ridge Christian School in the third round of the Class A state baseball playoffs featured 60 runs, 54 hits, 10 home runs, 13 pitchers, 13 errors, 22 walks and 18 strikeouts.

And nothing was decided.

That's because King's Ridge, after dropping Game 1 by a football-like score of 27-18, rallied in Game 2 with a walk-off 8-7 win over Providence to force today's deciding Game 3. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.

While Game 1 had its ups and downs, it didn't provide the drama Game 2 did as both teams battled through the cold and blustery conditions as nightfall began to set in at the unlighted Providence field.

Trailing 7-3 heading to the top of the seventh as the visiting team in the second game, Providence loaded the bases with one out to set the stage for junior Christin Stewart's 23rd homer of the season -- a grand slam on a 1-0 pitch to tie the contest at 7-7.

Stewart's blast deep over the wall in center field tied the Gwinnett County record for home runs, set last year by Wesleyan's Kevin O'Leary.

But the celebration would be short lived as King's Ridge, in its first season of Georgia High School Association competition, wasted no time in rallying to gain a split in the twin bill.

Patrick McClure led off the bottom half of the seventh with a double to the gap in right center and scored when Jason McCoy followed with a single to left as the Tigers' dugout and fans erupted.

McCoy's RBI single made a winner out of King's Ridge right-hander Luke McCracken, who provided a big lift to a depleted pitching staff. McCracken went the distance and allowed seven runs on seven hits, but didn't allow a walk and struck out four, while stranding four base runners en route to the complete-game victory.

Center fielder Devon Schmitt led the Tigers (20-11), going 3-for-4 with a homer, three RBIs and four runs scored. Schmitt's two-run blast run in the bottom of the sixth had padded the King's Ridge lead to 7-3.

Shortstop Austin Loyd led Providence with a 3-for-4 night and two runs scored.

Game 1 may have been one for the record books as the two teams combined for 45 runs in the nine-run Providence win. But it didn't come easy for the Stars.

As battering four different King's Ridge pitchers for 15 runs in the first two innings, including 10 in the second, Providence watched a 15-4 advantage dissolve as the visitors from Alpharetta eventually chipped away and took an 18-17 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth.

But Providence (23-10) regained its edge and put up six runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth to put the game away.

And the heroes were plentiful, including Stewart as the first baseman collected home runs No. 21 and 22 in the first game. Stewart finished Game 1 going 5-for-5 with two homers, two doubles, a single, a walk, five runs and seven RBIs.

Loyd was 3-for-4 with two walks and five runs for the Stars while Brown was 3-for-5 with a walk and four runs.

"We had a lot of success in the first game and came back in the second game to put ourselves in a position to win it," said Providence head coach Adam Cantrell. "But we didn't have a good approach, especially at the plate in the second game and it hurt us. (King's Ridge) pitcher (McCracken) kept us off-balanced and we didn't adjust. And after the first game when we scored so many runs, we didn't have good patience."

Providence will get a shot today to advance to the state semifinals and meet the Treutlen-Hawkinsville winner next Monday.


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