Mill Creek's Brandon Harmon (9) safely returns to first base while Mountain View first baseman Garry Gwaltney (17) awaits the throw. Harmon went on the score the first run of the game minutes later during the fourth inning. Mill Creek defeated Mountain View 2-1 in Firday's game.
HOSCHTON — Mountain View’s baseball team took a major step in proving their 8-0 start was for real by beating two of Gwinnett County’s top pitchers earlier this week.
But the Bears couldn’t quite solve another quality hurler in their Region 7-AAAAA game against Mill Creek.
Making his first start of the young season and just the second of his career, Shane Seckinger limited Mountain View to just one hit, while the Hawks manufactured a pair of runs to help the junior right-hander outduel A.J. Moore and hand the Bears their first loss of the season with a 2-1 win Friday at Fathers Field.
“I’m not going to lie. I had some good nerves, but I was ready to go,” said Seckinger, who gave up only a fifth-inning single by Brandon Griffin and one unearned run and struck out nine in going the distance. “I was pumped all day. I knew if I could get ahead in the count, I could turn it over to my junk pitches and get some outs.”
It was a solid plan as Seckinger (1-0) was ahead in the count for the majority of his 105 pitches on the afternoon, with plenty of command of his fastball, curveball and change-up to help him carry a no-hitter until Griffin’s clean two-out single in the fifth.
And he needed all of that command, as Moore (2-1) was almost as sharp.
The sophomore right-hander set down the first nine Mill Creek hitters he faced, six of which were retired on infield grounders.
But the second time through the order, the Hawks (5-4, 2-1 in region) began to use his strength against him by playing small ball.
B.J. Harmon led off the bottom of the fourth by steering a grounder through the hole between first and second for the first hit of the game for either team, and advanced to second when a pickoff attempt went awry.
Bryan Hudson then laid down a perfect bunt that became a single when it found a hole in the Mountain View (8-1, 2-1) defense, and Kevin Kirk put Mill Creek up 1-0 with his RBI single up the middle.
“That was huge,” Hawks coach Doug Jones said. “We put the ball on the ground in some good spots. We’re struggling swinging (the bats). So, any way we can manufacture a run, that’s important.”
Mountain View answered by manufacturing a run of its own in the top of the fifth.
Crew Peery drew a two-out walk, advanced to third on Griffin’s single and came home when Seckinger’s attempt to pick off Griffin at first got away, pulling the Bears even at 1-1.
But once again, Mill Creek used a little small ball to retake the lead in the bottom of the inning.
A lead-off single by Dillon Kokinos, a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Boldt, a wild pitch and a walk to pinch hitter Tripp Adams put runners on first and third with one out.
Harmon, who finished the day 2-for-3 with an RBI, then came to the plate and executed another perfectly-placed bunt for a single that brought home Kokinos to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
But Moore, who gave up just five hits and two earned runs and struck out three in his complete-game outing, was able to get out of further trouble and give his team a chance.
And the Bears nearly took advantage when Ben Utley sent a long line drive headed towards the gap in left-center with the potential tying run on first and two outs in the top of the sixth.
But Harmon calmly sprinted to his left and tracked down Utley’s drive to end the threat, and Seckinger set down Mountain View in order in the seventh, including two strikeouts, to close out the victory.
It was a tough loss for a Mountain View team that had beaten Duluth aces Zack Erwin and Chris Rich earlier this week.
“I’m going to walk (the distance of) that fence off because he hit that ball right on the nose,” Bears coach Jason Johnson joked about Utley’s drive in the sixth. “I thought at least we had a double and we tied the game up. But … (Seckinger) really kept us off balance, and we kept chasing. … And give (Mill Creek) credit. They executed. They did what they had to do to put some pressure on us. That’s really what it came down to.
“You know what? We’re really excited about where we are (after this week). We just faced three of the best pitchers, not only in this region, but in the state. … This is the level of baseball we’re hoping to play at on a daily basis. We went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the state, and we played pretty well.
Jones agrees, and felt fortunate his Hawks were able to find a way to win.
“This was a great high school baseball game,” Jones said. “Two outstanding pitching performances. It was one of those games where it’s tough to see a loser.”