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Providence, Charlton play waiting game in Class A title series

Photo: David McGregor  Providence third baseman Erich Stahl throws out a baserunner at first during the Stars victory on Monday against Savannah Christian in the Class A semifinals in Lilburn.

Photo: David McGregor Providence third baseman Erich Stahl throws out a baserunner at first during the Stars victory on Monday against Savannah Christian in the Class A semifinals in Lilburn.

After purposely delaying their Class A state championship series at Charlton County until Monday, Providence Christian's baseball team may have to wait out another delay before playing for its first state title.

That all may depend on where Subtropical Storm Beryl decides to roam along the Southeast Georgia coast today.

A final decision to proceed as scheduled with Monday's 2 p.m. doubleheader and Game 3, if necessary, Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Folkston, to delay the series until Friday or to move the series to a neutral site will be made sometime today, according to Providence coach Adam Cantrell.

Cantrell declined comment until a decision is made, though he knows that whenever the series is played, his Stars (25-11) need to give the same effort that has brought them on the brink of the school's third state title, and first since the girls soccer team won in 2007.

"We're not going to change what we do," Cantrell said. "We've gotten to this point doing what we do. So, we're not going to try to reinvent ourselves."

What the Stars have done to advance to the state finals for the second straight season is to bolster their usual powerful batting order that has put up an average of more than eight runs per game. They are led by record-setting slugger Christin Stewart, Austin Loyd, Austin Smith and Austin Golden. Added to that is strong defense and a vastly improved pitching staff, keyed by right-handers Steven Slaughter and Erich Stahl and lefty Luke Henderson.

But in No. 4 state-ranked Charlton County, Providence faces a formidable foe.

The Indians, coached by Meadowcreek grad Thad Marchman, have rolled up a 29-4 record and have lost just one game -- the opener of their three-game semifinal triumph over George Walton Academy -- since March 24.

And they've done it with a similar mix that Providence has.

"Their top two pitchers are pretty good," Cantrell said. "They're probably not quite where Hebron is (with Mason Felt and Jordan Hillyer), but they're pretty close. And they're very capable.

"Offensively, they're really gritty, very talented and very aggressive. It's hard to stop momentum if it starts going in their favor. ... So, we just have to limit them and stay away from the big inning."

Indeed, Charlton's top pitching duo of Chris Smith (14-2, 0.91 ERA, 104 K, 92 IP) and Scott Beasley (9-1, 1.34 ERA, 71 K, 52 IP) should make for an interesting matchup with a Providence lineup that is hitting .371 for the season.

Meanwhile, the Stars' pitchers will have to deal with a lineup led by Smith (.354, 4 HR, 49 RBIs), Jacob Baxter (.456, 1 HR, 20 RBIs, 25 SB), L.J. Talley (.373, 1 HR, 27 RBIs) and Drew Gowen (.410, 1 HR, 22 RBIs).