Lions punch ticket to final

Photo: John Carrington/Savannah Morning News<br> Hebron Christian's baseball team celebrates its two-game series sweep of Calvary Day on Monday in the Class A semifinals.

Photo: John Carrington/Savannah Morning News
Hebron Christian's baseball team celebrates its two-game series sweep of Calvary Day on Monday in the Class A semifinals.

SAVANNAH -- So much for home-field advantage.

Hebron Christian's baseball team rallied through a rocky start to sweep Calvary Day School on Monday and earn the program's first trip to the Class A state championship game.

The Lions won the first game 12-8 after trailing 7-3 after three innings, and junior ace Mason Felt carried Hebron home by throwing a nearly flawless two-hitter for a 2-1 victory in the series clincher.

In coach Heath Kennedy's four years with Hebron, the Lions have improved their win total every season.

Last year, Kennedy guided the Lions into the second round of the state playoffs and the team rose to a No. 1 ranking in Class A earlier this season en route to playing for a championship against the winner of today's game between Treutlen and Providence Christian.

"These kids have bought into the system, and they have worked hard so what we're seeing is the fruits of the kids' labor," Kennedy said. "(To play for a state championship) is huge for us and huge for the school. We will play at home and it is going to be huge for the community and for the school."

Calvary scored five runs in the first inning of the first game against Hebron starter Kevin Burgee, and the No. 1 ranked Cavaliers (28-5) tacked on two more in the second inning for a 7-3 lead. But Burgee settled down after the second inning and didn't allow another run while lasting into the sixth inning.

Hebron knocked Calvary starter Hunter Newman out of the game with a six-run fourth inning keyed by Danny Lockhart's two-run single with the bases loaded. Leading 9-7, the Lions added three more runs in the fifth inning to put the game out of reach.

"(Burgee) is a guy who's been our No. 1 guy and he's the school's all time wins leader," said Kennedy, who only pulled Burgee when his pitch count reached 115. "He's a gamer and it was a big momentum shift for him to stay in there and hang in there after giving up seven runs.

"We got down early and (Calvary) jumped on us pretty good, but the kids scratched away and then (Calvary's) pitcher lost it a little bit."

Newman pitched into the fourth inning but issued five walks, and the Calvary staff walked 10 Lions in Game 1. Hebron walked despite managing only six hits compared to Calvary's 13 hits.

"(Playing for a state championship) is something we've looked forward to the whole season, and we knew the season would be a disappointment if we didn't reach this goal," said Lockhart, who had two hits in eight plate appearances in the series. "We knew (Calvary) would be our biggest challenge all year because of their hitting and pitching.

"When we got down, we played ABC baseball. Instead of looking for the big inning we played small ball, got the bases loaded and then got a couple of hits."

Felt didn't need nearly as much run support in the second game.

The left-handed junior went all seven innings, surrendered only two hits and struck out eight Cavaliers.

Hebron senior Seth Gower plated Jordan Hillyer from third base with a sacrifice fly to make the score 1-0. After Calvary tied the score in the fifth, the Lions manufactured another run when Lew Stephens walked and eventually scored on Brady Shoppe's ground ball.

Calvary attempted to mount a threat in the sixth when Felt walked Skylar Strickland to begin the inning. But Shoppe threw out Strickland attempting to steal second, Felt struck out Sam Thornton on the next pitch and Lockhart made a dazzling play from shortstop to throw out Ty Bashlor for the third out.

"I knew (Calvary) could hit after watching what they did in the first game, but I did what I did all year and it worked out well for me," said Felt, who remained undefeated and was under the dogpile after Benji Cash stepped on first base for the game's last out. "It means the world to me because this is my first year here and everyone has treated me like family.

"We're a great team together, we stick together and we always are rooting for each other."