Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan North Gwinnett relief pitcher Danny Parry (9), center, celebrates with closer Michael Haynes (13) after defeating Collins Hill 3-1 at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee on Monday.
SUWANEE -- Drama is seldom in short supply in Region 7-AAAAA baseball games, especially so far this spring, with five games being decided by one run and three that needed extra innings.
But Monday's clash between North Gwinnett and Collins Hill may have provided a whole season's worth in one night, with both teams having plenty of scoring opportunities, only to see the other make clutch pitches or plays to get out of trouble.
But in a play with many actors, a hero ultimately emerged in Michael Haynes, who delivered the game-winning hit in the top of the 10th inning and pitched out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the bottom half to help North survive for a 3-1 victory.
"It was a typical North Gwinnett-Collins Hill game," North coach Frank Vashaw said after the Bulldogs (8-3, 3-1) maintained their share of the region lead with Mill Creek in the early going. "We had two extra-inning games with them last year. ... It was important for us to get this one. We had all sorts of chances to take this one, and then we kind of give them some. We were fortunate to get away with this one."
The Bulldogs certainly had more than their share of opportunities by putting runners on base in every inning.
But Collins Hill (3-5-1, 1-3) starter Wayne Wages displayed plenty of escape artistry, scattering 13 hits over eight innings of work, but stranding nine North baserunners in that time and giving up only Ryan Hagan's RBI double in the third inning.
"I was real proud of Wayne," Eagles coach Paul Pierce said. "He didn't have great stuff, but he did a good job scattering hits, and we made some plays behind him when we needed to. He made some big pitches in big spots to keep us in the game."
Meanwhile, North starter Tucker Baca was dominating most of the evening, giving up only Wages' lead-off single in the bottom of the first and striking out five in six innings of work.
But the sophomore lefty hit Matt Osterbur to lead off the fourth, and an error, an infield out and Charlie Padilla's squeeze bunt brought him home to tie the game at 1-1.
And it looked like the Eagles might take the lead when a throw to third to try to get John Topoleski got away, but North third baseman Brandon Winn recovered and threw Topoleski out at the plate to end the inning.
It was one of three close plays at the plate, and one of several dramatic baserunning plays on the evening.
But there was still plenty of drama to come as the game moved into extra innings.
First, Wages wriggled out of trouble again with the help of an unusual play after a lead-off single by Ben Carswell in the top of the eighth.
An error on Haynes' infielder grounder appeared to give North runners on first and second with nobody out, but Topoleski alertly threw behind Carswell, who had rounded second and headed to third, to Jon Formont, who made the tag for the out.
Formont then threw to rightfielder Adam Horridge covering the bag at second to get Haynes trying to advance to clear the bases before Wages pitched around Cody Short's pinch-hit, infield single to retire Alex Kimble and escape with the game still tied.
North then got a couple of scares on deep drives of the bats of Wages and Topoleski in the bottom of the eighth of Danny Parry (2-0), but Kimble was able to run down both shots to force the game on.
Finally in the 10th, Haynes delivered a one-out, RBI double to put the Bulldogs in front, while Kimble added another RBI double one out later to give North a 3-1 cushion.
But there was still work to be done, especially after Haynes walked Horridge, gave up a single to Blake Pulliam and a bunt single to Wages to lead the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the inning.
However, Haynes, who finished the night 2-for-5 with two doubles at the plate, didn't lose his cool.
"In that situation, you're just pretty much thinking you've got to get your job done," Haynes said.
And the junior right-hander got his job done, setting down Osterbur, Topoleski and Nate Williams on strikes to secure his first save of the season and the win for North.
The Bulldogs pounded out 15 hits, including two each from Haynes, Hagan, Kimble Justin Dutka, Cole Willoughby and Noah Ford.
Meanwhile, the loss was a tough one to take for the Eagles, who got a 2-for-4 night each from Wages and Jimmy Shea.
"We're going to keep competing," Pierce said. "Some things didn't go our way (Monday) night, but tha'ts just baseball. We've got to better ourselves and be able to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves."