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The Hammond Skyhawks scored five runs in the first inning and held on to a 5-3 win over the Augusta Christian Lions Tuesday, May 16 in the second game of the SCISA 4A baseball state championship series.
“We didn’t panic after Game 1. We’ve been here before,” Hammond head coach Chris Braciszewski said. “We just knew we had to get it back to a Game 3. We stayed loose. We told them at the beginning to jump on them early, and we did. Then we stopped, but five was enough.
“I was proud of them. We came out and got the momentum and never gave it up. They tightened it up a little at the end, but we jumped on them quickly. We wanted a Game 3, and we got it.”
After Augusta Christian only managed one hit in the top half of the first, it was Hammond’s turn at the plate. Lions’ pitcher Khaleel Pratt was able to retire the first two Skyhawks. That was when Hammond turned the tables. Dylan Richardson singled, William Hudson drew a walk, and Jack Croft reached on an error to load the bases. Evan Todd then sliced a two-run single to left field, scoring Richardson and Hudson to put the Skyhawks in front 2-0. Thomas Dennis was hit by a pitch, before Ben Kirkpatrick nailed a two-run single to right field, scoring Croft and Todd to increase the lead to 4-0. Michael Aitchison then blasted a double to left field, scoring Dennis as Hammond led 5-0.
That was more than enough offense for the Skyhawks’ Wyatt Barrett, who threw 5-2/3 innings giving up one earned run on seven hits while striking out five and walking three.
“He’s a big game player,” Braciszewski said. “He plays all out every time he goes out there. He gave us a great shot to win. He just kept going. We maxed him out. He gave it his all. He’s a senior, could be his last game, and he made sure it wasn’t.”
While the five-run first inning gave Barrett plenty of cushion, his outing did have some challenges.
In the top of the second, Augusta Christian tried to respond. Chase Williamson drew a walk and Jonah Shipes singled. Two batters later, Jon Crosby reached on an error to load the bases with two outs. However, Barrett forced a pop out by Pratt to close out the inning.
The Lions threatened again in the top of the third. Luca Perriello and Wilson Donnelly hit singles. Ethan Duckworth then hit into a fielder’s choice, leaving two on with one out for Augusta Christian. Once again, Barrett got out of a jam. He forced a pop out by Eric Doyon, and Donnelly was picked off at third following a hit by Chase Williamson.
The fifth inning may have been the hardest. Pratt reached on an error, and Perriello drew a walk. Donnelly smashed a single to center field, scoring Pratt and trimming the deficit to 5-1. Duckworth followed with a sacrifice fly, scoring courtesy runner James Bradford to shrink the gap even further at 5-2. Barrett responded by striking out the next two batters to end the inning.
Jack Miller came on in the sixth and stayed on to close the door in the seventh. Despite giving up a home run to Perriello, he was able to limit the damage to one run to preserve the win for Hammond.
Miller pitched 1-1/3 innings giving up one run on two hits while striking out one.
Evan Todd and Ben Kirkpatrick led the Skyhawks at the plate, each going 2-for-3 with two RBI. Michael Aitchison went 1-for-3 with an RBI.
With the win, the Skyhawks force a Game 3, which will be played at Cardinal Newman School Thursday, May 18 at 6 p.m.
“I feel great. We know in a Game 3 anything could happen,” Braciszewski said. “I told this team at the beginning of the year they reminded me of the 2019 team. That year we got 10-runned in the first game and made it to Game 3, and it was a wild one. When we get to Game 3 everything is off the table. It’s win or go home.”
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