By Chris Goltermann / Coweta Score
Trinity Christian’s baseball team picked up Saturday in Game 2 right where they left off less than 24 hours earlier, as the Lions connected for three more home runs en route to a second-round sweep of Pinewood Christian in the second round of the GISA Class AAA state playoffs.
On the heels of an 11-5 win at home on Friday that had four Lions going deep, Trinity jumped out in front early en route to a 9-3 victory over the Patriots while clinching a trip to the semifinal round for the third consecutive year.
On Saturday, Kyle Riesselmann capped off three consecutive hits for extra bases to open the game from the Lions in the top of the first with the last of his two homers during the series, allowing the hosts to take an early 3-0 advantage while leading from start to finish.
With the latest victory, this year’s Region 1-AAA champions improved their overall record to 20-1-1.
It also sets up an all-Trinity Final Four series this week with the squad here in Sharpsburg hosting the GISA’s other Trinity Christian from Dublin.
The Crusaders, who finished the regular season as Region 2’s third-place finisher knocked off Region 4 champion Westfield 11-1 in the deciding game of their second-round series.
Westfield had forced a deciding third game after rallying from an 10-1 deficit in Game 2 to win 13-12.
It gives the Lions home-field advantage for a third consecutive playoff series after going on the road during all of last year’s postseason run.
With Trinity pushing its home run total this season to over 50 during the sweep of Pinewood, it expects to give the Lions a significant edge in this year’s semifinal round.
Both Trinity Christians met in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, with the Lions sweeping in Dublin.
This year’s winner moves on to face either Tift Area, this year’s Region 3 champion, or Region 2 winner Frederica.
Frederica eliminated defending GISA champion John Milledge with consecutive 9-4 and 9-8 victories. Tift Area eliminated Gatewood with a sweep that included 8-5 and 8-7 efforts.
The Lions’ series with Pinewood didn’t have quite the same drama. Trinity took full control after trailing 4-2 heading into the fourth inning of Game 1, scoring six runs on seven hits.
From there, the team never trailed again, using an early 3-0 lead in Game 2 to set the tone on Saturday.
Senior Alex Williford and junior Calin Smith connected on back-to-back doubles to open the series finale, the latter producing a 1-0 lead, before Riesselmann connected for his second homer in as many days.
The Lions junior upped his season home-run total to 13 after pulling a pitch over the left-field fence to close out the early outburst in the top of the first with Trinity acting as visitors for Game 2.
Pinewood struck back immediately with two doubles to leadoff its initial at-bat, pulling to within 3-2 before starting pitcher Shep Hancock found a groove.
The sophomore’s nine strikeouts included a pair to close the bottom of the first before adding two more in the second and two more in the third.
In between, Trinity padded its lead further. The Lions manufactured a run with help from three Pinewood walks in the second and upped the lead further to 6-2 in the third with help from another walk and a Patriots error.
Trinity then put the series away with back-to-back homers from Maury Weaver and Williford in the fifth, pushing the Lions’ season total to 53 heading into their Final Four series.
Williford, Smith and Riesselmann joined Chase Metcalf with a team-high two hits. Weaver and Riesselmann each posted 3 RBIs.
Riesselmann had two homers and 5 RBIs in the series sweep.
Lions 9, Patriots 3
Trinity Christian 302 030 0 — 9 11 1
Pinewood Christian 200 001 0 — 3 6 3
WP — Shep Hancock
2B — Kyle Riesselmann, Calin Smith, Alex Williford
HR — Kyle Riesselmann, Maury Weaver, Alex Williford