The University of North Georgia continued its dominance over rival Young Harris in this year’s Battle of Blood Mountain by taking a series win on the baseball diamond in Dahlonega.
The Battle of Blood Mountain series started off on the right foot for the Nighthawks, who were able to take a 4-2 victory over a dominant pitching performance by freshman pitcher Cade Heil. The win gave North Georgia its ninth win in a row, and head coach Tom Cantrell was quick to credit the pitching to the team’s recent run of success.
“You go back and look at the winning streak and pitching has been the main thing,” Cantrell said.
The Nighthawk offense came alive to support the pitching in the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run off the bat of junior outfielder Joshua Profit. Sophomore Andres Perez added on to the rally with a RBI single scoring Chase Sudduth to put North Georgia up 2-0.
Heil kept the Mountain Lion offense scoreless until the seventh, when Young Harris senior Rudy Gaona sent one over the left field wall to make the score 3-1.
The UNG offense was quick to respond however, as Mapes scratched across another RBI courtesy of a solo home run to add insurance for the Nighthawks.
Young Harris once again attempted to comeback with a RBI single from Corey Reynolds in the top half of the eighth inning. Parker Morrison came from the bullpen, ending the day for starting pitcher Heil.
Morrison was able to shut down the Mountain Lion offense and secure the series opening win for North Georgia. The save gave Morrison his conference-leading seventh save on the year. The Peach Belt win gave the Nighthawks their ninth consecutive victory.
“We are more confident than we were earlier in the season,” Profit said. “Everybody is getting more comfortable with each other.”
However, North Georgia’s winning streak would come to an end Saturday afternoon resulting from a 5-4 loss to Young Harris.
The Mountain Lion offense was quick to get on the board first coming off Rudy Gaona’s second home run of the series in the top half of the second. Young Harris continued scoring runs, plating two more courtesy of a two-RBI single from freshman infielder Brett Graczyk to make the score 3-0 in favor of the visitors.
The Nighthawks were able to respond in the bottom of the fourth off a solo home run off the bat of Jake Arnold. Young Harris however were able to regain the lead shortly after Arnold’s home run when Reynolds hit a RBI single to make it 4-1 for the Mountain Lions.
North Georgia battled once again to cut the lead in half to 4-2 through a sacrifice fly from Conner Corbitt to score Profit in the bottom portion of the fifth. YHC notched a run of their own coming from a Triston Smith solo home run to increase the visitor’s lead to 5-2.
UNG battled back, scoring two runs of its own off a Sudduth fielder’s choice RBI and a ninth inning home run from Corbitt to bring the Nighthawks within one run. But the comeback ended there as Mountain Lion pitcher McLain Harris was able to sit down the next two hitters down, securing the 5-4 win for Young Harris.
Sunday afternoon’s game between the conference opponent would decide the series and this edition of the Battle of Blood Mountain. North Georgia was able to grab the series win with a 7-2 victory over YHC.
After the visitor’s struck first in the top of the first, Perez sent his 15th home run of the year over the right-center field wall scoring three runs and giving the Nighthawks a 3-1 lead.
The three runs would be enough for starting pitcher Derrick Pickvet who threw 5.2 innings in route to his third win of the 2018 campaign.
And the Nighthawk offense didn’t stop. Profit added on to an already impressive series by sending a fly ball deep into the outfield for a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second, scoring Nick Clarno and giving UNG a 4-1 lead.
“I’ve been making small adjustments which you have to do between series, games, and at bats,” Profit said. “The adjustment I made this weekend really worked out for me.”
Bill LeRoy added to the run scoring through a RBI single to left field, plating Profit to extend the home side’s lead to four in the bottom of the fourth.
North Georgia was quick to put to rest any comeback effort, scoring two runs off a Perez double and a Corbitt double to secure the game and series victory for the Nighthawks.
“It’s important to win a series against anybody in this conference,” Cantrell said. “We’re happy we won the game but we have to do better than we did the last two days.”