ROSWELL, Ga. — Blessed Trinity extended its unbelievable region championship streak to nine seasons Thursday night with an exciting 6-5 win over rival Marist in the de facto Region 7-AAAA championship game.
While many of BT’s title runs over the last nine years have been captured with multiple region games left to play, this season’s race came down to the regular season finale. Marist beat the Titans 10-6 on April 17 to put the rival squads at 10-1 in the region standings and set up a winner-take-all contest for the region crown Thursday.
Blessed Trinity head coach Andy Harlin said the postseason atmosphere of the contest was something the Titans have missed in recent years.
“We felt like we were playing a playoff game, and we haven’t had that in a long time in region play, it just happened to work out that the region championship would be determined in the last two games,” Harlin said. “It was like the de facto first round of the playoffs and it had that kind of play and feel with a big crowd that raised your awareness for sure.”
The two top-ranked teams in Class 4A battled throughout the night with solid pitching and active bats. Blessed Trinity opened a sizeable lead in the third inning, but Marist continued to chip away to set up a dramatic sixth and seventh inning.
“We knew it was going to be a fight until the last out,” Harlin said. “Marist is a great team, and we knew with two teams that competitive with the history we have it was going to be a war of attrition.”
The War Eagles struck first with a double and RBI single in the top of the first, but BT starter Eric Moore settled in and threw two strikeouts to end the early threat. Moore went four innings, allowing seven hits and three earned runs with three strikeouts and four walks.
Blessed Trinity’s bats were also firing early. CJ Abrams laid down an indefensible bunt followed by a single from Steele Chambers and a Jake Smith sacrifice fly to tie the game. A fielder’s choice allowed another runner to cross the plate ahead of singles from DJ Radtke and Ben Hamacher and a sacrifice fly from Michael Mitchler to put the score at 4-1 in favor of BT.
With the Titans leading 4-2 in the bottom of the third, Radtke hit a two-run home run to right field to extend BT’s lead.
Marist cut the deficit to 6-4 in the fourth inning and threatened to knot the score in the sixth.
The War Eagles hit a double and a BT error with two outs set up an RBI single to cut BT’s lead to a single run.
Marist retired the Titans’ three batters in the sixth and looked to earn the tying run down to their last three outs.
Trey Baker got the nod to pitch in the seventh and walked his first batter faced to put the tying run on first. Despite the inauspicious start, Baker threw a strikeout and then forced two groundouts to end the Marist threat and secure BT’s ninth straight region championship.
Harlin credited his players groundwork to keep the Titans’ incredible region championship streak alive.
“When these guys come through, they have a ‘not on my watch’ mentality, they just want to keep the ball rolling,” Harlin said. “There are things you don’t have control over, but you do have control over the way you prepare. The days between games are just as important as the games, and these guys prepare hard.”
Harlin believes that Thursday’s postseason atmosphere will benefit the Titans in the fist round of the playoffs next week.
“That environment feeds your experience,” he said. “Being in the heat of the moment where the ground is shaking on outs and every pitch, when you’ve been there it feeds your confidence. Hopefully we take that into the playoffs.”