Special to the Journal
BOONEVILLE – Northeast first baseman Easton Hall knew he had hit the ball hard in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday but was still surprised at the result.
The former New Albany standout lined a three-run home run off the top of the right-field wall to break up a tied score, and the Tigers held on for a 12-11 victory over Pearl River.
The Game 3 victory gave the first-round series of the state tournament to the Tigers, who now advance to the four-team finals starting Thursday at Northeast.
“He had a 1-2 count on me, threw me a fast ball, and it worked out,” Hall said. “I didn’t think I had hit it out, but I looked up and it was gone.”
Hall’s swing gave Northeast (27-18) a 12-9 lead. Pearl River (27-22) plated two runs in the top of the ninth, and left runners on first and third as reliever Evan Hickman struck out the final Wildcat.
“It wasn’t very pretty, but we’re still on the dance floor,” Northeast head coach Kent Farris said. “This was a long two days with hard-fought games.
“But we look forward to the rest of the state tournament.”
Northeast was not liking the look of the day after Saturday’s Game 2, where Pearl River hit three home runs to claim a 12-6 win to even up the best of three series at 1-1.
But the Tigers responded in Game 3 early, claiming a 7-0 lead through five innings. That included a Luke Stanley two-run hit in the second, an RBI hit by Hall in the fourth, and an RBI hit by Jack Hurdle in the fifth.
Pearl River fought back with five in the sixth, including a three-run blast by Nathan Pugh. Northeast came back with a Trent Turner two-run triple in the sixth, but the Wildcats tied the contest with four runs in the top of the eighth.
Northeast’s Game 3 starting pitcher Ethan Taylor worked a solid seven innings to keep the contest close.