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Hebron beats Providence for first state title

Photo: Andrew McMurtrie. Hebron players celebrate after winning the Class A state finals over Providence Christian on Saturday. Hebron defeated Providence 6-3 to take the second game of a best-of-three series.

Photo: Andrew McMurtrie. Hebron players celebrate after winning the Class A state finals over Providence Christian on Saturday. Hebron defeated Providence 6-3 to take the second game of a best-of-three series.

DACULA -- Hebron Christian Academy's climb to the top of the Class A baseball mountain finished in fine fashion Saturday afternoon as the Lions defeated Providence Christian Academy 6-5 and 6-3 to claim their first-ever state title.

Hebron (33-3) took Game 1 in dramatic fashion with a walk-off win by scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and then used a dominating starting pitching performance in Game 2 to capture the championship.

In Game 1, Hebron had built a 4-0 lead on two solo homers from Christian Davila and a two-run blast by Jordan Hillyer.

But Providence rallied and scored four in the fourth inning.

Josh Carter got things started with an RBI single to score Steven Slaughter and Austin Loyd delivered a two-out, three-run homer to tie it up at 4-4.

Providence took a 5-4 lead in the top of the seventh on an RBI single by Slaughter to score Christin Stewart, but Hebron had one last shot.

With one out, Brady Shoppe singled and Danny Lockhart followed with a double. Then Hillyer was intentionally walked to load the bases.

That set the stage for P.J. Westbury's double to the alley in right-center to plate Shoppe and Lockhart for the game-winner.

In Game 2, the name of the game was Mason Felt, and the junior left-hander delivered the championship with a seven-hit, 16-strikeout performance for the Lions.

Felt was sensational all evening long, throwing 120 pitches and striking out 13 Providence batters swinging.

In fact, Felt struck out the side every inning except the first, fifth and seventh in throwing the complete game. He gave up single runs in those same innings, including a long home run by Stewart.

Stewart's 26th on the season broke the record set in 2002 by Gainesville's Micah Owings and tied the game at 1-1 after Hebron had struck for a run in the top half of the first.

Hebron, which scored in seven of the 14 innings, got a single run in the second on a RBI double by Matt Stephens to score Lew Stephens and take a 2-1 lead.

The Lions added two more in the third on a two-run homer by Hillyer to build the advantage to 4-1 and then ran out to a five-run lead on an RBI double by Davila and groundout by Shoppe.

That would be enough for Felt, who may have saved his best for last in the title-clincher. But the junior was only satisfied in helping his team win.

"It may have been my best effort (of the season), but because it helped us win the state championship," said Felt, in his first season with the Hebron program. "I had four days rest and my arm was kind of hanging. But I was able to get out there and keep (Providence) off balance. I'm just glad I could be a part of this team."

For Hebron head coach Heath Kennedy, it is the culmination of a lot of hard work and trying times for a program that won just 14 games in Kennedy's first season.

"In the playoffs, we've kind of relied on that formula of good pitching beating good hitting," said Kennedy. "I really believe that came to fruition. Adam (Cantrell) does a great job with his guys and we beat a good team. But I know we have some great players on this team who are (Division I) guys and can play.

"When we came (to Hebron), I knew we had some work to do but I knew we had some talent. So if the players would buy into our program and our philosophy, we had a chance to be good. So that's what you see out here tonight is a culmination of that work."

For Providence, it's a season that didn't end on a promising note. But it is a season that saw the Stars go farther than any team in school history.

"We battled hard and showed a lot of heart throughout the season," said Cantrell. "We never quit, even in that last game. We gave ourselves some opportunities. I'm proud of the guys for that (effort). We ran into a very good Hebron team. Tip your hat to them and move on."


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