RINGGOLD, Ga. - The Ringgold Tigers and West Hall Spartans, two teams who might have felt they were looking in a mirror all day, dealt their aces separately Friday in the opening doubleheader of their Class AAA first-round state baseball matchup.
Ringgold's Logan Baldwin and West Hall's Zach English both delivered on their teams' expectations, leaving the teams one more round to decide things. Ringgold's Bill Womack Field will host them today at 1 p.m., with the 2014 season ending for the loser.
Baldwin, a Georgia Southern signee, fought nerves and control issues in the first inning but did not allow a hit afterward as the Tigers rallied late for a 5-2 win in the opener. English, unbeaten for his senior season, escaped two early traps and followed Baldwin's complete-game two-hitter with a seven-hitter of his own and a 4-1 decision.
"We knew coming in how evenly matched we were," Ringgold coach Brent Tucker said. "After all, they were 18-8 coming in and we were 19-7. We're about as evenly matched as can be.
"Baldwin has been our ace all year, and his ball was running real well," Tucker added. "Sometimes with left-handers, it can run too well."
Baldwin walked three and hit three batters as his curve was slow to come around Friday, but the Spartans took a 2-0 lead thanks to their only hits - doubles by English and first-game starting pitcher Will Simmons. A big right-hander, Simmons had a gem of his own for much of the opener, taking a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning.
Ringgold got on the board on a 380-foot solo homer by Zach Morris in the second but had only one other hit through five innings. But in rapid succession, Sale Dale, Baldwin, Morris and Garrett Peeples contributed station-to-station singles to tie the game and chase Simmons. Reliever Dustin Gaddis offered no relief, walking a pair with the bases loaded and yielding a big insurance RBI hit to Brandon Dycus.
Meanwhile, Baldwin got out of a fifth-inning jam when catcher Ethan Dalton threw out English stealing third with cleanup hitter Brian Newman at the plate.
The Tigers, batting first in the nightcap, could have put West Hall away early, and should have, according to Tucker.
"You've just won, you load the bases in the first inning ... we had our chances to jump on them," Tucker said.
The Tigers stranded four men in scoring position in the first three innings but led only 1-0 on a Hayden Moss RBI single in the second. Ringgold starter Devin Lancaster was in a battle from the get-go, stranding five runners in the first two innings before Brian Newman's RBI single got West Hall on the board in the third. A two-run double from Cameron Johnson broke the tie an inning later, and the rest was up to English, who struck out nine.
"Ringgold's a very good team," West Hall coach Dustin Rennspies said. "But we got our confidence back, and English has been our guy on the bump all year. He was again tonight."