Norcross swept in series after squandering leads

MARIETTA -- Norcross led most of both games in Thursday's second-round doubleheader with Walton. However, big innings late in the game by Walton proved costly as the Raiders swept the series 6-5, 7-6.

Norcross held leads of 5-2 in both games. However, a three-run seventh inning moved Game 1 into extra innings where Walton took advantage of an error in the eighth to win.

Then, in Game 2, Walton scored three runs in the sixth inning, taking advantage of another error to go ahead in the inning.

"It's disappointing, but this was a heavyweight battle," said Norcross head coach Jonathan Wyman. "Walton is an unbelievable program and this was a great series."

In total, all three of Norcross' errors in the series cost it wins in both games.

After the loss in Game 1, Norcross jumped all over Walton in the bottom of the first of Game 2 after Walton scored a run in the top half of the inning. The Blue Devils sent 11 batters to plate and scored five runs.

Griffin Helms got things going with a solo home run, followed by a walk to Jascanel Ferreras. A double by Trevor Craport moved runners to second and third. Jess Ramsey's double plated both, while an error on the shortstop allowed Ramsey to score on batter later.

Two singles loaded the bases for Shirah, who drew a walk to bring in Norcross' fifth run of the inning.

"Scoring those five runs were huge for us, especially coming off a loss and they had scored a run in the top half of the inning," Wyman said. "I was curious to see how our guys would respond after that run scored and words can't describe how I felt after they scored those five runs."

Walton was able to answer in the third inning on a two-run double by Henry Rowling, bringing the deficit to 5-3.

Rowling later hit a home run in the fifth inning to bring Walton closer.

Norcross got back one of those runs when Ramsey hit a solo home run in the bottom half of the inning, but the momentum was clearly with Walton.

With two outs, Luke Manzo singled to load the bases and Rowling reached on the second error of the inning, scoring two runs to tie the game at 6-6. A wild pitch put Walton in the lead, where it stayed.

"Walton was everything we had heard about them," Wyman said. "That Rowling kid ... wow! He had a superhero series."

Joseph Wilber picked up the no-decision, going 4 innings with seven hits and two strikeouts.

Walton jumped on the board early in Game 1, scoring runs on a solo home run by Stephen Wrenn and an RBI double by Aaron Rzucidlo.

Starter Jackson Williams settled down through the next three innings, allowing two hits through the fourth.

Norcross got on the board on a solo home run by Ferreras in the fourth inning to make the score 2-1.

Then, the Blue Devils exploded in the fifth inning, taking advantage of two balk calls to score four runs.

Bomar doubled to left-center and took third on a wild pitch. After a walk to Shirah, Walton committed its first balk of the inning, bringing Bomar home.

Later, Ferreras hit his second home run of the game to make the score 4-2. Not to be outdone, Craport took the very next pitch over the left-field fence to make the score 5-2.

Walton looked to answer with a few runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning, loading the bases with one out. However, Joey Szwec lined out to Bomar at second, who then stepped on the bag for the double play.

The lead stayed the same through the bottom of the seventh. Logan Barnette scored on Wrenn's RBI single. Then, with two outs, Rowling stepped up and blasted a two-run homer, tying the game at 5-5.

Walton then won the game in the eighth when a grounder to short bounced through Shirah's legs, allowing Roberts to score the game-winning run.

Jackson Williams had a no-decision for the Blue Devils, going four innings with six hits and two earned runs.

While the loss ends Norcross' season, Wyman believes it's only the beginning for the Norcross program, thanks in large part to the four seniors on his team.

"Their leadership carried us through the tough times," he said. "They put this team on their back and were the reason we made it here. We went from 9-17 last year to 19-11 this year and they had a large part in that. They set the bar high for the future of this program."