Six-run sixth propels Providence to run-rule victory

LILBURN -- After combining for 35 runs in the first two games of the Class A first-round series Friday, Providence Christian and Landmark Christian had the bats go relatively quiet.

Well, for at least the first four innings of Saturday's deciding Game 3.

The Stars (19-10) got three runs in the fifth and six runs in the sixth to get a 12-2 run-rule victory over the War Eagles, advancing to play Gordon Lee at home beginning Wednesday.

"We battled, battled, battled in the early part," Providence head coach Adam Cantrell said. "We were popping the ball up early, but got things together."

In the fifth inning, up 3-2, Providence looked as if it was going to be set down in order. But, two-out walks to Christin Stewart and Austin Smith gave life to the Stars. Austin Golden, who struck out in both of his earlier at-bats, came up and shot a double, scoring Justin Brew and Smith to give the Stars a 5-2 lead.

Steven Slaughter added one more run onto that total with an RBI single, scoring Golden, giving Erich Stahl a four-run cushion to work with.

After a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, Providence came up in the sixth and lit up the scoreboard.

John Bailey was hit by a pitch and stole second before scoring on a Stahl RBI single to right field. A walk to Austin Loyd was followed by a lined shot by Stewart that glanced off the glove of second baseman Josh Nobles, allowing Charlie Scott (pinch-running for Stahl) to score.

Then, Golden stepped up again, blasting a ball to left-center field that center fielder Jordan Wren couldn't track down, as the ball hit off the wall and Golden ended up on third with two runs scoring.

But, it wasn't enough, Slaughter came up next and parked the ball over the left-center field fence, giving the Stars a 12-2 lead.

As the Stars went out for the bottom of the sixth, all they needed was three outs to secure the game.

"Get out there and play good defense," Cantrell told his team before they went out to the field.

After a one-out single by Nolan Bryant, Stahl got a strikeout and induced a ground out to give Providence the win.

Early in the game, Providence got on the board first when Stewart hit a home run to right-center field to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.

However, Landmark responded against starter Patrick Smith getting a two-run home run from Cole Higbie. The War Eagles then loaded the bases with one out, looking to push more runs across the plate.

But, Ben Baggett grounded to short, as the Stars turned the 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning.

In the second, the War Eagles had runners on first and second with one out in the second, chasing Smith from the game in favor of Stahl.

As if right on que, Stahl got a liner back at him, which he caught and threw to second for the double play that got the Stars out of the inning.

"We made the pitching change and got the immediate double play," Cantrell said. "That was huge."

The Stars then took the lead in the third inning as Stewart had an RBI single, and Austin Smith hit into an RBI fielder's choice to give the Stars a 3-2 lead.

On that same play, however, Providence ran itself into two outs, and mistakes on the basepaths resulted in two outs, clearing the bases of runners.

"We ran ourselves out of that inning," Cantrell said.

Stahl picked up the win, going 4 innings, with five strikeouts and no earned runs.