Staff Photo: John Bohn Providence Christian Academy first baseman Matt James (22) takes a throw as George Walton Academy base runner Cade Sorrells (7) is save back at first base during the third inning of a state playoff baseball game on Thursday. George Walton defeated Providence 5-1 in the third game of their series.
MONROE -- In the end, George Walton Academy -- and specifically Ben Parr -- were just too much for Providence Christian in Game 3 of their Class A (private) state baseball quarterfinal series.
The Georgia Tech-bound senior threw a complete game on the mound and was 2-for-2 with an RBI at the plate as the Bulldogs claimed the game, and the best-of-three series, with a 5-1 win Thursday at Bulldog Field.
"Their team did a good job forcing the issue," Providence coach Adam Cantrell said after the Storm's season ended at 16-14. "And Parr's pitching was really nice. He really threw the ball well, and he got better as the game went on."
Parr (10-0) went the distance, with the left-hander allowing just five hits and an earned run with 10 strikeouts in pitching the Bulldogs (29-2) into the state semifinals against Mt. Paran Christian next week.
"He pitched well," GWA coach Todd Shelnutt said of Parr. "He's kind of gotten stronger all year the more he throws and gets into a rhythm."
But Providence also got a strong start from sophomore right-hander Jackson Winskie (5-2), who kept the Storm close by getting out of some early trouble spots -- none bigger than the bottom of the first.
GWA loaded the bases with nobody out when Evan Alderman legged out an infield single to short, followed by consecutive singles by Hunter Rice and Parr.
But Winskie escaped the jam with an athletic play on Trey Lang's tapper to the mound to get the force at the plate, before making a similar play on Cade Sorrell's comebacker to start a 1-2-3 double play, which left the game scoreless.
"He pitched with his back to the wall (in) several innings," Cantrell said of Winskie. "He came out on top more often than not. It's just that we couldn't do (enough) offensively to put any more pressure on them, unfortunately. That's a credit to Parr and what he's capable of doing."
The Storm actually did get to Parr enough to break out on top in the top of the third after Max Broom led off the inning with a double and Campbell Baldwin beat out a bunt single to put runners on first and third with nobody out.
It looked like a big inning might be in order when an error turned a definite force play, and potential double-play ball, into Erich Stahl's RBI fielder's choice to put Providence up 1-0 and left runners on first and second with still nobody out.
But during Matt James' at-bat, GWA catcher Tate Gaines threw behind courtesy runner Caleb Carter, who then took off for third and was tagged out despite a nifty slide for the first out of the inning.
Parr then got James to ground out to second and struck out David Rhodes to avoid further damage and keep the Storm's lead at just 1-0.
"You wish you could've scored a little bit more," Cantrell said. "We had a good opportunity with men on first and second and nobody out, (but couldn't add to the lead)."
GWA, meanwhile, did cash in on an opportunity in the bottom of the inning when Alderman reached on an error, stole second and eventually came home on Parr's RBI single for an unearned run that tied the game 1-1.
Still, Winskie kept Providence in the game until the bottom of the fifth, when he got into another jam that he almost wriggled out of again.
This time, a bloop single and a steal by Alderman, a walk to Rice, a wild pitch and intentional walk to Parr loaded the bases with one out.
Winskie then battled Lang through a thrilling nine-pitch at-bat, with the GWA third baseman fouling off three pitches with the count 3-2 before the Storm hurler finally struck him out for the second out of the inning.
But the Bulldogs were persistent as Sorrells delivered a clutch two-out RBI single to put GWA up 2-1 before Tyler Jarvis followed with a pinch-hit, two-run single up the middle that extended the lead to 4-1, and drove Winskie from the game.
That was more than enough for Parr, who retired the last 10 hitters he faced, and 14 of the last 16 Storm hitters, with Charlie Scott's single the only hit he allowed after the third inning. Scott finished the day 2-for-3, while Rhodes added a infield single.
It brought to an end a season in which Providence recovered from an 0-7 start against a brutal pre-region schedule to stand just one game shy of its fourth trip to the state semifinals in the last six years.
"We started the season really, really slow," Cantrell said. "But we rebounded well, and had a good region part of our season. We came into the playoffs and played really well. ... But (GWA is) a good team. I'm happy for Todd. He's a really good coach, and I expect them to do some nice things in the next round or two."