Staff Photo: John Bohn Providence's Tyler Brown (1) steals third base as Savannah Christian's third baseman Andrew Brodmanm (2) dives for the ball during the fourth inning of a Class A final four baseball playoff game on Tuesday. Brown continued on to score a run on the play, setting the score at 3-1 in favor of Providence.
LILBURN -- Senior leadership is something that is often discussed, but not always realized.
Such is not the case with the Providence baseball team after the Stars advanced to the Class A state championship series with a 7-6 win in Game 3 of their semifinal series with Savannah Christian.
Providence recovered from a tough 5-4 walk-off loss in Game 2 of the series Tuesday to come back for a thrilling one-run win of its own, with seniors carrying the most of the load to clinch the series.
"This was simply a case of survive and advance -- it's that simple," Providence head coach Adam Cantrell said. "We didn't exactly earn the accolades of being a state finalist this year, but we did just enough. And, yes, we did have a bunch of seniors come through and lead us. That's what you expect of seniors this time of the year."
The offense in Game 3 came primarily from seniors like Christin Stewart and Austin Smith.
But nothing could quite compare to the pitching effort of Patrick Smith.
Smith came on in relief of starter Erich Stahl, who pitched well until the sixth, when the Stars' defense fell apart.
But Smith was up to the challenge and basically saved the day for Providence in the sixth and then closed the deal in the seventh.
Smith entered the game with Savannah Christian already scoring a pair of runs and threatening to tie or go ahead.
Staring at a bases-loaded situation and Providence nursing a one-run lead, the right-hander got Nick Sharpley to ground out to second to keep the score at 7-6.
Providence went quietly in the bottom of the sixth and Smith was back out there to seal the deal in the seventh.
And he did just that.
After allowing a leadoff single to Jacob Lightle to start the inning, Chander Wilkinson put down a bunt in front of the mound.
But Smith grabbed the ball and fired a bullet to second base to cut down Lightle for the first out of the inning and, more importantly, keep the potential tying run out of scoring position.
From there, Smith struck out Andy Crawford and Andrew Brodmann to end the game and put Providence in the title series for the second straight year.
"Situations don't get much harder than (what Patrick had)," Cantrell said. "But, being a senior, he's pitched in a lot of tough games. He's been a starter for us, so we had the confidence that he would come in and get the job done. He knows how to handle those kind of situations. We knew he was there for us late in the game when everything was on the line."
It looked like Providence would run away and hide as the Stars got two runs in the first and three more in the second to take a 5-0 lead.
Stewart hit a mammoth two-run home run to give Providence the quick two-run advantage.
It was Stewart's 15th home run of the season and the 69th of his career, which ties Gainesville grad, and current San Diego Padre, Micah Owings for the Georgia state record.
"It felt great to hit that home run in a game we were winning and moving on the state finals," Stewart said. "That's the most important thing is that we won the game."
Providence scratched across three runs in the second on an error a passed ball and Austin Smith's RBI infield single.
But Savannah Christian answered in the top of the third with a three-spot to cut the Providence lead to 5-3.
Jake Heater's RBI double scored Will Austin and Bryce Evans, then Heater scored on a wild pitch as Andy Crawford drew a walk.
Providence came back in the bottom of the fourth to push the lead back to four runs.
Austin Smith (2-for-3, 2 RBI, run) doubled off the wall in right-center to plate Austin Loyd to make it 6-3, and Smith came home when Steven Slaughter reached on a throwing error to increase the lead to 7-3.