Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
Providence Christian's Austin Loyd (6) gets the force-out at second on King's Ridge's Slade Osborne and attempts to turn a double play during Wednesday's Class A quarterfinal game.
LILBURN — This time, there were no record-breaking run totals or heart-stopping walk-off wins.
Instead, Providence just went out and took care of business the old-fashioned way, rolling to a 12-2 win in five innings to clinch a spot in next week’s Class A state baseball semifinals.
Pitching and defense were the prevailing themes in Wednesday’s Game 3 clincher for the Stars (24-10), who will play Treutlen on Monday in a best-of-three series.
Sure, Providence rolled out 12 runs in the victory over King’s Ridge (20-12). But most of those were just icing on the cake as junior right-hander Patrick Smith held the Tigers at bay for most of the contest.
Smith worked 42⁄3 innings and limited King’s Ridge to two runs on eight hits and didn’t walk a batter. Smith added three strikeouts and only gave up a second-inning solo homer to Jeff Sneed before running into trouble in the Tigers’ fifth.
Smith gave way to Steven Slaughter in the top of the fifth after allowing three two-out singles, including an RBI hit by Luke McCracken, to cut the Providence lead to 11-2. But Slaughter shut down the Tigers on a flyout to keep the lead at nine.
From there, Providence wasted no time in posting a final run to clinch the run-rule victory.
After Austin Smith singled and stole second, Nick Stidham singled to center to plate Smith to secure the Stars’ Final Four berth.
And that made a winner out of Patrick Smith.
“Going into the game, I knew we were going to score runs,” Smith said. “I wasn’t too worried. I knew if I did my job, we were going to be in good shape. I had my stuff working and I just trusted my coaches to call the right pitches. I didn’t feel a lot of pressure because I know that my teammates are going to score runs to keep us in it.”
Providence never trailed in the game, jumping on top with a four-run first and three more in the second to pull ahead 7-1 going to the third.
The Stars sent nine to the plate in the first and scored all four runs on a grand slam by Stidham, who launched a towering blast over the center field wall to give Providence the early lead.
In the second, the Stars sent eight batters up and got a two-run homer from Christin Stewart, who broke the Gwinnett County home run record with his 24th round-tripper of the season to break the record of 23 held by Wesleyan’s Kevin O’Leary.
“It feels good to hit that home run,” said Stewart. “I’m working hard and our whole team is working hard, so I’m just glad I could help. We pitched well today and played good defense, so it feels good to know we can play that way instead of just scoring a lot of runs.”
Austin Smith, who went for 2-for-3 with three runs scored, followed with a solo blast to give the Stars a commanding six-run lead.
Providence added two RBI singles by Austin Loyd, who finished the game 4-for-4 and scored a pair of runs. Loyd also flashed the leather at shortstop with some solid defense to support Patrick Smith’s game-winning performance on the mound.
Alan Skinner chipped in an RBI single in the fourth.
“Patrick just pitched his heart out there tonight,” Providence head coach Adam Cantrell said. “He’s been doing that for us all year. In the beginning of the year, he wanted to start, but we had some other guys that we felt were in that starter role. So we gave him an opportunity against Buford and another one against GAC. He did well and he’s been our third starter since then.
“He’s got a little change and he stayed down in the zone. As long as he can stay down there and keep their guys off-balance, he’s going to be pretty successful.”
Providence finished the three-game series with 46 runs on 42 hits, including eight home runs, and scored in 14 of the 19 innings.
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