By Nathan DeenMay 8, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga. (MAY 8. 2013) -- Going into the opening round of the Class AAAAA baseball playoffs, Hardaway head coach Chris Gilstrap said he liked his team's chances in any three-game series because of pitching depth.
Even if one pitcher had an off game, he felt confident he would get good performances from the other two.
That's exactly the reason Hardaway (24-5) survived a tough draw against fourth-seeded Northgate (Newnan, Ga.) and will move on to the next round. The Hawks defeated the Vikings (19-9) 6-0 in the deciding Game 3 at home Friday behind the pitching of Sheridan Coy, who used his swing-and-miss, 12-to-6 curveball to baffle hitters in a complete-game performance. Coy allowed just two hits and struck out three.
"If that's our Game 3 guy, we're pretty darn lucky," Gilstrap said. "He competes, he throws strikes and he's got good velocity.
"Usually (Game 3 is) a slugfest because pitching is depleted. To shut somebody out in a Game 3, that says a lot about the quality of arms you've got out there."
Coy, a senior on a team of many experienced players, said he wanted to do his part in getting his team to the next round. Things didn't start well for Coy, who avoided giving up some early runs in the first two innings, but threw 47 pitches in the process.
"Coach told me before the game 'You're going to get into a jam once or twice,' because (Game 3 is) usually high scoring. He said, 'You just have to be a bulldog and fight it out.' I didn't want to lose and I didn't want to let my team down, so I just fought through it."
Coy threw 106 pitches in the game and was able to provide extra rest for the rest of the Hawks' pitching staff.
"We've got some guys who can go 100-plus pitches and seven strong innings," Gilstrap said. "As long as they're getting people out, we don't have a problem with leaving them out there.
"Our guys have done a great job all year of finding ways to get out of (tough) innings. We always say that single runs don't beat you. But if someone drops a four-spot on you, it's kind of hard to come back. We just try to limit the damage."
Hardaway got one of those big innings in the bottom of the third inning. Northgate pitcher Jonathan Fleckenstein looked to be in control early on, but the Hawks used "small ball" tactics to ignite the offense. Trevon Dorsey drew a walk, Blake Rupp beat out a throw to first on a bunt and Will Griggs laid down a perfect bunt in the gap between third base and the pitcher's mound to move the runners over. Coy, Josh Anthony and Justin Ellison each drove in runs off base hits and the Hawks led 4-0 by the end of the inning.
"With a bunt situation, you have to get an out," Gilstrap said. "If you don't get an out, it leads to big innings. That's exactly what happened. We ended up with another runner instead of an out and then we bunt again … it just applies a lot more pressure to that defense."
In Thursday's Game 1 of the series, Hawks pitcher Cedric Brown threw a one-hitter and Griggs drove in the game's only run in the bottom of the sixth for a 1-0 win; however, the Hawks couldn't close the deal in the second game in a 5-4 loss. The Vikings jumped ahead 5-2 against Dorsey, who started as pitcher in Game 2 for the Hawks. Hardaway tried to mount a comeback with a solo home run by Justin Ellison in the top of the sixth inning, but failed to score the game-tying run in the top of the seventh.
Northgate finished fourth this year in a region (4-AAAAA) full of good teams, including Starr's Mill (24-4), McIntosh (22-5) and Whitewater (21-7). The hardest part between now and the semifinals may be over, Gilstrap said.
"They're not your traditional 1-4 matchup," he said. "A lot of times when you pull that one-seed, you're looking at the second round before the first round even starts. That's not the case at all with these guys. You come out of that region and you've got a chance to make some noise. The first round may be the toughest part of it."
Hardaway will host Evans High School May 8 in the second round of the playoffs.