Westside found its second-round opponent in the Georgia Class AAA playoffs to be more of a challenge than its first-round foes, but the Patriots still managed to sweep Harris County 7-2 and 8-4 Wednesday at Patriots Field to advance to the state quarterfinals.
Last Thursday, Westside (24-5) crushed Thomasville, 7-0 and 17-0, to reach round two.
This time, the Patriots held off a fifth-inning rally by Harris County (21-9) in the second game, as the Tigers threatened to send the series to a decisive game three.
Trailing 8-2, Harris County scored two runs before Patriots pitcher Brandon Stelter induced Adam Harmon to ground out, stranding Ben Hudson on third base to end the inning.
"I give those guys credit," Westside coach Gerald Barnes said of Harris County. "They could've given up, and they were in a position to make a run in the end. From now on, that's the kind of people you play."
Patriots right fielder Barry Hall came out swinging for the seats again, drilling a Greg Allen pitch over the wall in left-center field for a three-run homer to give Westside a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning of game one. It was Hall's second home run of the playoffs.
Alan Gregg went 2-for-3 with an RBI in each game. Overall, Westside spread the offense evenly throughout the lineup.
John Ducey had another brilliant pitching performance in Wednesday's first contest, yielding just two unearned runs and one walk, while striking out seven batters in a three-hit complete game. Ducey went 2-for-3 at the plate in game two, with a double and three RBI.
"Luckily, we came out and shut them down early," Ducey said. "Early in the year, I struggled, and I kind of got my act together. The higher you get, you're going to face better teams, and we were kind of looking for that. We knew it wasn't going to be easy."
And it certainly won't get any easier for the Patriots, as they travel to Gainesville to face the two-time defending Class AAA state champion Red Elephants in the quarterfinals, starting Monday.
Barnes wants to focus on the Gainesville series before he starts thinking about a state championship.
"When you start thinking too far ahead, you get to watch it from there on," Barnes said.
Harris County coach Mark Gilreath knew Westside would be tough at home, and got what he expected.
"We had a chance, but we had to avoid the big inning," Gilreath said. "The last thing we wanted to do was beat ourselves. (Westside) is a solid squad."
Leadoff hitter Jay Mathis led the Tigers offensively in the second game, going 3-for-4 with a third-inning double.
Reach Lane Kramer at (706) 823-3221.
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