Staff Photo: John Bohn Charlton County's Jacob Baxter scores a run while Providence Christian catcher Charlie Scott waits for a throw from first base during the second inning of the second game as Providence and Charlton County split a pair of Class A state championship baseball games Thursday in Folkson.
FOLKSTON -- After waiting almost a week to play, Providence Christian and Charlton County will need still one more day to determine the 2012 Class A state baseball champion.
Charlton took a 6-3 win in the opener behind Chris Smith, who threw a complete-game gem on the mound and went 2-for-3 with a two-run home run at the plate.
But in the nightcap, Providence showed the kind of bounce-back ability that has been their trademark, led by its other big trademark -- big innings from its bats.
A seven-run outburst in the fifth gave Providence the lead, and Austin Golden and Austin Loyd each blasted two-run homers during the evening, as the Stars salvaged a split of the doubleheader with a 15-8 victory Thursday at Indian Field.
The two teams will square off again today at 1 p.m., with the title going to the winner.
It is a familiar situation for both teams, but especially Providence (26-12), which has won two different third and deciding games this playoff season.
"We've been good with our backs against the wall the whole year," said Loyd, who finished the doubleheader 3-for-8 with the homer and six RBIs, five of which came in Game 2. "We know if it's lose or go home, we start focusing and bearing down and just playing baseball."
Providence's victory in Game 2 was hardly a thing of beauty, with the Stars committing four errors and pitchers giving up eight hits and walking five.
However, Charlton County (30-5) was equally generous, walking nine and committing five errors -- all in a three-run second inning.
But Providence's big rally came with the Stars trailing 7-6 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Golden, whose three-run homer in the first had given Providence its first lead in the back-and-forth contest, drew the second of his three walks for the game to lead off the inning and went to second when Max Broom singled.
Both runners advanced when strike three to Tyler Brown went to the backstop and Golden came home to tie the game at 7-7 when Josh Carter sent a single to left-center before Erich Stahl then sent a grounder to third that Charlton's Richard Dasher fielded and stepped on the bag to get the force out at third.
But Stahl beat Dasher's throw to first to prevent the double play and allow Broom to come home and put Providence up 8-7.
The Stars were just getting startedm as Loyd followed with a two-run single to right, while Golden drew a bases-loaded walk two batters later, followed by Broom's two-run single.
When the dust settled, 12 hitters had come to the plate, with seven touching home, vaulting the Stars in front 13-7 and making a winner out of Broom (3-2), who shook off a shaky fourth inning out of the bullpen to throw a scoreless fifth to pick up the win.
Loyd added a two-run homer in the seventh and Josh Carter threw the final two scoreless innings to close out the win that gives the Stars a chance at the title today.
"We did not have a lot of quality at-bats in Game 1," Providence coach Adam Cantrell said. "In Game 2, we came in with a little do- or-die attitude, I think. And obviously, we're not dead yet."
In the opener, the Stars had a tough time dealing with Smith (15-2), who pulled even with two other pitchers for fourth on Georgia's all-time list for single-season wins.
The senior right-hander limited Providence to just five hits and three earned runs and struck out eight in the complete-game performance.
"Credit to Charlton where credit's due, their guy pitched the ball incredibly well in Game 1," Cantrell said. "Their starting pitcher (also) beat us up at the plate in Game 1 and Game 2. They just never quit."
The Indians also gave him an early lead to play with after the first three batters in their lineup got hits to open in the game off Luke Henderson (6-4), with Drew Gowen's single bringing in two runs to put Providence in an early 2-0 hole.
The Stars did get to Smith in the top of the third, when Austin Loyd drove in one run with a single and Erich Stahl, who had doubled earlier in the inning, came home on a wild pitch to tie the game at 2-2.
But the Providence defense, which was strong most of Game 1, had one bad inning that proved costly in the bottom of the fourth, when two errors combined with three hits to push Charlton County back in front at 3-2.
Henderson limited the damage by escaping the inning with just the one run scoring, but it forced the Stars to play catch-up the rest of the way.
Smith then made his presence known at the plate in the bottom of the sixth by launching a two-run homer -- his team-best fifth of the season -- to key a three-run rally that expanded the Indians' lead to 6-2.
Providence managed to reach Smith for a run in the top of the seventh on Stahl's sacrifice fly, but the Gordon College signee got Loyd to fly out to center to close out the Game 1 victory.
Smith also hit a three-run homer in Game 2 that briefly gave the Indians the lead, and finished the doubleheader 4-for-7 with two homers and five RBIs.
Besides Loyd, Golden also had a strong day for Providence, finishing the doubleheader 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs.