Looking to return to the state finals, and perhaps win the title that evaded its grasp a year ago, second-seeded Mount Paran (27-3) will host No. 3 Hebron Christian in the semifinals, beginning Monday.
Jake Palomaki set the tone for the series when he blasted a solo homer to left field in Mount Paran’s first at-bat of Game 1. Later in the inning, Isaac Phillips sent a pitch soaring over the left-field fence for what appeared to be yet another home run for the host Eagles, but Savannah Christian coach Carl Carter challenged the amount of pine tar that was on Phillips’ bat.
After a lengthy conference among the umpires and coaches, it was ruled that the pine tar on Phillips’ bat was too high, and the home run was ruled an out instead.
“They called the bat illegal and took the run away,” Mount Paran coach Kyle Reese said. “Nobody had a tape measure to measure the bat, and then someone with Savannah had a tape measure, but I’m the home coach, so I’m not going to let theirs be used.
“It was just gamesmanship,” Reese added with a smile.
Despite having his first-inning homer taken away, Phillips had a chance to get back in the spotlight.
In the bottom of the fifth, Phillips hit a one-out homer to straightaway center, putting the Eagles ahead 3-1. Trammell’s go-ahead homer came in the sixth inning, giving the win to pitcher Landon Faulkner, who finished with 11 strikeouts.
In the nightcap, Mount Paran used an eight-run sixth inning, which came after pitcher Andrew Maxwell shut down a potential Savannah Christian rally in the fifth.
With the bases loaded and his team holding on to a 6-2 lead, Maxwell struck out Savannah Christian’s Brandon Deal, ending the inning.
Mount Paran’s sixth-inning explosion was started when Faulkner showed his offensive abilities by singling to right field, driving in Trammell for a 7-2 lead. The at-bat was the beginning of a string of four straight RBI hits for the Eagles.
A ground-rule double gave Mount Paran a 10-2 lead during the streak, and with a 14-2 margin at the end of the sixth, the Eagles were able to invoke the 10-run mercy rule.
Carter deferred his postgame commenting to assistant Chris Spurlock, who was coaching in his last game for seventh-seeded Savannah Christian (17-11).
“I’m proud of them” Spurlock said. “We had a great year and they really learned how to fight. We planned every day for May and I feel like we finished strong. We won nine out of 10 coming into (Wednesday).”
While Savannah Christian’s trip to Kennesaw ended its season, the dedication in the Raiders’ baseball program is a year-round concept.
“We will start preparing for next May in a few weeks,” Spurlock said. “We’re disappointed, but we’re proud of these young men for how they played, and we’re proud of who they are.”
Meanwhile, Mount Paran will continue its quest for a state championship.
“We have to work on defense,” Reese said. “We made some errors that gave them runs, and we hit some guys with pitches. But with the way we batted in the second game, we feel like we have a lot of momentum going into the next series.”