Staff Photo: John Bohn Providence Christian's Max Broom is about to be tagged out by Charlton County catcher Drew Gowen during the third inning of game three of the Class A state championship baseball tournament Friday in Folkston. Providence defeated Charlton County 11-1 in six innings to win the state Class A championship title.
FOLKSTON -- After constantly having to battle back throughout Thursday's doubleheader in its Class A baseball state championship series against Charlton County, Providence Christian wanted to gain some early momentum in the decisive Game 3.
The Stars did far more than that.
They made a huge early statement by pounding out six early runs on their way to a 17-hit barrage, while Erich Stahl gave his usual steady Game 3 performance on the mound as Providence rolled to an 11-1 win Friday at Indian Field. The victory gave Providence its fifth GHSA state title overall and first for a boys program.
Austin Golden put the Stars (27-12) ahead with his RBI grounder in the first and went on to finish the day 2-for-3 with a home run and five RBIs, while Max Broom was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and Stahl (6-2) scattered five hits and one unearned run with four strikeouts over five innings as Providence dominated from the start.
"We knew we had to come out swinging away in that first inning," said Golden, who finished the three-game series 4-for-7 with nine RBIs. "We just kept the throttle up."
Stahl revved Providence's engine by rocketing a double off the fence in straightaway center on the game's third pitch and eventually came around to score three batters later when Golden bounced out to short.
That gave Providence a 1-0 lead with two outs in the inning, and the senior right-hander plenty of confidence.
"Before the game, I was thinking I didn't do a very good job of leading off," said Stahl, who was 4-0 on the mound for the Stars in the postseason, including 3-0 in Game 3 starts. "So, I knew if I could just get on, I was going to score. And if we get ahead, we were going to win."
But the Stars were hardly through giving Stahl an early cushion, and they erupted with plenty of two-out lightning.
Austin Smith rifled a double into the left-field corner and came home on Steven Slaughter's RBI single to make the score 3-0.
After Tyler Brown reached on an error to extend the inning, Josh Carter and Broom made Charlton County (30-6) pay with back-to-back doubles -- Carter's driving in two runs and Broom's bringing Carter home.
When Stahl was retired on a grounder to short to finally end the inning, he suddenly found himself with a 6-0 lead.
"I knew that if I stuck to my game, I wouldn't have to overthrow or strike everyone out," Stahl said. "I just had to make good pitches and I had confidence because we had a big lead."
Stahl wasn't the only one with confidence.
After watching his team have to battle from down 2-0 in the first inning in each game of Thursday's doubleheader, the early advantage made coach Adam Cantrell feel better about his team's chances.
"The two-out hit has really been the difference maker in our season," Cantrell said. "We've been able to do it with our backs against the wall, not only in games with our backs against the wall, but innings with our backs against the wall all year long.
"We played best when you backed us into a corner, and we came out (Friday) with that kind of attitude from the get-go. We didn't really want to wait until our back was against (the wall) in the seventh inning."
Providence kept up the pressure in the second after Austin Loyd led off with a double and Christin Stewart was intentionally walked -- the seventh intentional pass and eight walk overall in the series for the senior slugger -- to bring Golden to the plate.
The senior launched a three-run homer, his second round tripper of the series and sixth of the season, to increase the Providence bulge to 9-0.
Golden the added an RBI single in the third to push the lead to 10-0, which was plenty for Stahl, who pitched around Charlton County baserunners in each of the first five innings.
But he kept the Indians, who were making their first championship series appearance in school history, off the board until Jacob Baxter led off the fifth and eventually came around to score on a two-out error.
That temporarily extended the game after Providence was one out away from ending it early on the Georgia High School Association's mercy rule.
But the Stars answered in the sixth on Broom's two-out, RBI single and Stahl recorded his first 1-2-3 inning in the sixth to seal the title.