With Hillgrove, Harrison and McEachern locked into a tie for fourth in the Region 4AAAAAA standings with identical 9-6 records, Hillgrove needed to beat Harrison to make the Class AAAAAA state playoffs, while Harrison needed a win and a McEachern loss to reach the postseason.
Neither team got what it wanted.
Though Harrison won 2-0 on its senior night, coaches discovered following the game that McEachern had beaten Kennesaw Mountain to lock up the region’s final state playoff berth.
Because Harrison was swept by McEachern during the regular season, it needed to win Friday, and have McEachern lose, to get the final playoff spot.
Since Hillgrove swept McEachern, it just needed to beat Harrison to qualify for the postseason.
Ultimately, with their postseason fates decided, neither team felt like celebrating when Friday’s game was over.
“I’m proud of our guys, because our backs have been against the wall the last two weeks, but they kept fighting,” Harrison coach Mark Elkins said.
The Hoyas (17-8, 10-6) ended the season on a five-game winning streak, but they had lost seven of eight before their current streak.
“We had no wiggle room, but did what we had to do the last two weeks,” Elkins said. “If we lost one more game, we knew we didn’t have a chance to get in the postseason. We’ve been playing playoff games the last two weeks, and we’re a battle-tested team. We feel like we would have been a good No. 4 seed, but it’s out of our hands now.”
Harrison scored both its runs in the first inning.
Tanner Weeks led off with a walk and moved to second on Cole Austin’s single. Weeks reached third on Jayson Cook’s fielder’s choice at-bat and scored on an error as Cook stole second.
Hunter Fortner hit a one-out RBI single into left field that plated Cook from second, but Hillgrove pitcher Nate Richardson induced a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.
Richardson allowed one hit the rest of the way — a single to Austin in the third — and faced the minimum in four of his final five innings. He completed the game allowing two earned runs on three hits, one walk and three strikeouts in six innings.
Harrison starter Andrew Patrick was just as effective, giving up no runs on three hits with three strikeouts over six innings.
“Andrew pitched a phenomenal game,” Elkins said. “He knew the situation. He knew we needed a quality start, and he did what good pitchers do in that situation.”
The Hoyas’ defense was also stout, producing two double plays.
Tyler Elkins gave up one walk in relief in the seventh.
“Tyler came in and got some groundball outs,” Mark Elkins said of his reliever and son. “We turned some big double plays on defense and kept Hillgrove from threatening. You don’t want to be in a position to have to rely on somebody else, but that’s what we faced and it didn’t work out.”
Austin batted 2-for-3 for Harrison, while Cook was 1-for-3 with an RBI and a stolen base.
Carter Landreth, Devin Bilardello, and Channing Painton had hits for Hillgrove.
“If we win, we’re in the playoffs,” Hillgrove coach Dave Richardson said. “We controlled our own fate. I tip my hat to Patrick and the middle of Harrison’s defense for turning those two double plays, and almost a third.
“We had a hiccup in the first, but Nate pitched his butt off the whole game. It’s a deep region and two really good teams won’t be moving on.”
Hillgrove (15-11, 9-7) won’t be moving on, missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2009.
“I hurt for our seniors,” Richardson said. “They worked tirelessly to be successful, and they were committed. Those kids were phenomenal.”