Between Tattnall Square’s Matt Blair and Holy Innocents’ Hugh Chapman, there was plenty of firepower on the mound in the first game of the GHSA Class 1A private school baseball semifinals.
Both starting pitchers will be playing for in-state collegiate powerhouses next year, Blair at Mercer and Chapman at Georgia Tech.
They certainly kept plenty of batters fooled, with each striking out 10.
The difference between Chapman and Blair on Wednesday? Trey Ham.
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Ham, the Tattnall catcher who has shown plenty of power at the plate this year as a sophomore, connected on a shot deep to left in the first inning, a two-run homer that was his 13th of the season. Blair rode that run support the rest of the way, picking up three insurance runs in the sixth en route to a 5-0 victory.
A pitcher also played a big role in Game 2 on Wednesday night, with Garrett Houston going the distance on the mound while going 4-for-4 with three RBI at the plate as Tattnall wrapped up the best-of-three series victory 9-3.
Tattnall (31-3) faces Savannah Christian for the Class 1A private school title next week.
Six who mattered
Blair: The senior had a superb outing in Game 1, with base hits in the fourth and fifth innings the only hits he gave up. He struck out 10 and walked three, throwing 65 of his 103 pitches for strikes.
Houston: After scoring two runs on no hits in a leadoff role in Game 1, Houston’s bat came alive in Game 2. His 4-for-4, three RBI game included a double. He also settled down quickly on the mound after a shaky first inning in which Holy Innocents took a brief 1-0 lead, scattering four hits while striking out eight and walking one.
Ham: As much success on the mound as Tattnall has enjoyed this season, Ham is making the Trojans’ choice for MVP difficult. With two down and Houston on second after reaching on an error in the first inning of the opener, Tattnall’s catcher took an 0-1 offering from Chapman and drove it over the fence in left. From there, he became Mr. Free Pass, as he walked three times and was hit by two pitches.
Luke Laskey: His two-out infield single to deep short in the sixth drove Austin Marchman home and set the table for Logan Simmons, whose mishandled shot up the middle plated two more Tattnall runs in Game 1.
Mikey Wilson: The Tattnall outfielder went 3-for-3 with three runs scored in Game 2, scoring the go-ahead run in the sixth inning on an error after getting hit by a pitch to start the inning.
Chapman: Early home run aside, Chapman threw five strong innings before running into trouble in the sixth. He struck out 10 and walked three, allowing four hits. Two of those hits took place in the sixth. He threw 113 pitches, reaching the 110-pitch limit on Simmons’ at-bat in the sixth.
Ace vs. ace: The Blair vs. Chapman pitching duel was as advertised. Both pitchers threw hard, and batters on both sides had trouble connecting. But the early Ham home run gave Blair an extra level of comfort, something that paid off for Tattnall.
Errors costly: Holy Innocents committed three errors in Game 1, with two of those errors leading to four Tattnall runs. The Bears gave up five more in Game 2, with six of Tattnall’s runs ending up as unearned.
Late innings big for Tattnall: Game 2 was tied at 3 heading into the sixth inning when Tattnall swung things its way. An error on a sharp grounder by Luke Laskey sent Wilson home with the go-ahead run, and an infield grounder by Simmons plated BJ Spears for a 5-3 Tattnall lead. A four-run seventh inning in which Holy Innocents used four different pitchers followed.
Savannah Christian rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Athens Christian 2-1 in Game 1 of their Class 1A private school semifinal series, then Savannah Christian won the nightcap 2-0 to clinch a spot in the championship series opposite Tattnall.
They said it
Houston on going on to the title series: “We’re feeling great, but we know we’ve got a good team in the state championship with Savannah Christian. They have a good team, so we know we’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Houston on Game 2: “Those first couple of innings, I don’t know what was going on with my arm. I couldn’t quite do it right away. Then Jody (Burnett, Tattnall’s trainer) gave me a good rub. I got loosened up as the game went on, and I started throwing better.”
Ham on the first inning homer off a Georgia Tech signee: “He was really good. Curveball was really good. You couldn’t tell the difference between his fastball and his curveball. I just got lucky and squared one up.”
Ham on collecting all of those free passes: “Oh man, that was probably the most frustrating thing of my whole career. I mean, it’s just what they did, and it’s one of those things. We actually capitalized on some of them, so it’s no big deal.”
Game times and sites for each GHSA championship series will be set by the association once all semifinal series are decided, with the Rome Braves and Savannah Bananas hosting all eight title series. Doubleheaders will be played Wednesday and May 25 at each site, with Game 3s slated for May 27.