MILTON — After struggling in key situations in the opener of its second-round Class AAAAAAA state baseball playoff doubleheader with Milton, Mill Creek needed to come through in the clutch in Game 2.
And the Hawks got a complete-game effort on the mound from Zach Green and some clutch hitting from Brendan York to earn a 5-1 victory in the nightcap Wednesday night at Milton Field.
That win earned Mill Creek (22-13) a split of the doubleheader after host Milton (24-9) took advantage of the Hawks’ problems with stranding baserunners at the plate and hit batsmen by the pitchers, and got a walk-off double by Logan Jones to score an 8-7 in the opener.
A deciding Game 3 will take place Thursday at 6 p.m., with Milton as the home team after winning the post-doubleheader coin flip Wednesday.
“(Green) thrives in this situation,” Mill Creek coach Doug Jones said. “He wants to be the guy. Sometimes he gets a little overamped, but you’d rather have with that personality, that enjoys the moment and is not scared.
“I think we were maybe just a little more relaxed in our approach (in Game 2). We have some kids who haven’t been in this situation before, and they were trying as hard as they could, but you’ve got to be composed and understand the situation.You learn from your failures sometimes.”
The Hawks learned from their mistakes in Game 1 thanks in no small part to Green, who allowed Milton just four hits and struck out seven in going the distance, but had to pitch around six walks and a hit batsman.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today,” the junior left-hander said. “But I knew after I got started, … I just had to pound (the strike zone). And even though (Milton) kept getting runners on, I just had to keep my poise up and keep throwing strikes.”
Green never had a true 1-2-3 inning during the nightcap, but he did face the minimum in four different innings with a little help from himself and his defense.
A double play on a liner by Georgia Tech commit Kristian Campbell, a conventional 6-4-3 double play and two pickoffs — one by Green and another by catcher Alek Boychuck — aided in that cause.
Still, Mitlon took a 1-0 lead when Green hit Jack Rhodes with the bases loaded in the top of the second, though Green escaped further damage by getting Mitch Landon to pop out to short to keep the deficit at just a run.
“I find really good stuff at the right time,” Green said. “The coaches were calling pitches I knew I could use and were going to work to get us out of those innings.”
Then, it was York’s turn to come up big for Mill Creek.
After Jacob Allen led off the bottom of the third with a single and advance to second and third on two separate wild pitches from Cole Stupp, the junior shortstop delivered a sacrifice fly to center that scored Allen and pulled the Hawks even at 1-1.
Stupp settled down and kept Milton in the game by holding Mill Creek to just five hits over the first five innings.
But in the sixth, the Eagles right-hander finally broke after a lead off walk to Boychuk, a stolen base by courtesy runner Lucas Schumm and a one-out single by Trey Mullins.
Stupp then committed a throwing error trying to pick Mullins off first, allowing Schumm to score to give Mill Creek the lead at 2-1, and Muillns to go around to third.
A perfectly-executed squeeze bunt by pinch-hitter Garner McKeon brought home another run to make the score 3-1, and McKeon reached on an error on a tag attempt down the first base line.
Walks to Blaze McCauley and Allen sandwiched around a strikeout loaded the bases with two outs, and York came through again in the clutch, rifling a single to right that brought home two more runs to extend the Mill Creek lead to 5-1.
“He makes us go,” Jones said of York, who finished the doubleheader 3-for-6 with two walks, there RBIs, a stolen base and two runs scored. “No question he understands that..”
Those two runs helped give Green more cushion when Tyler McLoughlin drew a lead-off walk and Logan Jones moved him around to third with a one-out double in the top of the seventh.
And he used that cushion to stay relaxed and strike out Rhodes and get Landon to ground out to third to close out the complete-game win and send the two teams into Game 3.
Game 1 was a slugfest from the get go, with Boychuk giving the Hawks a quick 2-0 lead with his first-inning, two-run homer about 380 feet into the trees behind the wall in left-center.
In fact, Mill Creek scored in five of the first six innings, with key hits coming on RBI singles by Jacob Allen in the top of the second Blaze McCauley an inning later, but James Schmidt’s two-run hustle double in the sixth.
However, the Hawks stranded 10 baserunners in all, including seven in scoring position, throughout the contest that could’ve added on even more runs.
Those missed scoring opportunities would come back to haunt them, as Milton refused to go away and took advantage of Mill Creek’s other big issue of the opener — hit batsmen.
After a two-run hit by James Schmidt, which he hustled into a double, gave Mill Creek a 7-6 lead in the top of the sixth, a hit batsman in the bottom of the next two innings proved costly.
First, Campbell was hit by a pitch with two outs and nobody on in the sixth, and eventually came around to score the tying run on Stephen Michaels’ RBI double.
An inning later in the bottom of the seventh in a tie game, McDonnell was plunked with one out, which set the stage for Logan Jones, who rifled a hard grounder inside the first base bag and down the right field line, allowing McDonnell to spring around the bases to score the winning run and give the Eagles the walk-off win.