There were more than a few concerned Heritage fans in the stands after their Generals surrendered six runs in the top of the first inning in their Class AAAA state baseball tournament opener against Stephenson on Wednesday.
However, the nervousness didn't last very long.
The Generals got three of the runs back in the bottom of the inning and later erased a 7-4 deficit with seven runs in the bottom of the third, on their way to a 15-9 victory over the Jaguars in the first game of the doubleheader.
Heritage went on to score a 10-3 victory in the nightcap and punch their ticket to the second round next week.
Heritage 15, Stephenson 9
The Jaguars, the No. 3 seed from Region 6, used six hits in the top of the first, including an RBI-double and a two-run triple to stun the home team early.
But Heritage refused to panic and got back in the ball game over the next two innings before rallying for the lead in the third. An error and an RBI-double by Gage Shaver got the big inning going. Brady Chandler later picked up an RBI-single before C.J. Robertson and Caden Snyder both delivered timely two-run doubles.
Landen Skeen put two more runs on the board with a single in the fifth and another pair of runs scored in the sixth before Stephenson tacked on its final two runs in the top of the seventh.
Robertson finished with three hits, including two doubles, and scored three times. Chandler and Dylan Bryan had two hits apiece, while Cannon Stafford had a hit, drew two walks, scored three times and knocked in a pair of runs.
Starting pitcher Zach Barrett settled down after the shaky first inning and allowed just two hits over his next four innings of work. He finished with three walks and four strikeouts on the day. J.J. Hunt pitched two innings of relief, allowing a pair of unearned runs on three hits. Hunt finished with three strikeouts.
Heritage 10, Stephenson 3
Playing as the visiting team in the nightcap, the Generals spotted the Jaguars a run in the bottom of the first inning, but scored in each of their final five at-bats, including a three-run third and a three-run seventh.
Stephenson trailed 10-1 before getting its final two runs in the bottom of the seventh. But it was much too little, much too late for the Stone Mountain club as Heritage swept the best-of-three series.
Cade Kiniry pitched five innings and allowed just one earned run on three hits and three walks, while finishing with six strikeouts. Snyder threw two innings out of the bullpen. He allowed two earned runs on two hits and three walks with two strikeouts.
Kiniry also helped himself with two hits and two RBIs at the plate. Skeen had a double and an RBI. Chandler had a hit, scored a run and drove in two. Robertson collected one hit, drew a walk, scored twice and drove in one run, while Shaver had a hit and scored three times. He also swiped two bases.
No. 10-ranked Heritage (24-7) will go on the road in the second round to take on Region 5 champion Hampton. The Hornets (23-6) swept Region 8 No. 4 seed Chestatee in their first-round series, 5-3 and 9-1.
The Heritage-Hampton winner will face either Region 1 runner-up Thomas County Central or Region 3 champion and No. 2-ranked Benedictine in the state quarterfinals.
Region 7 champion Cedartown swept both games against Region 6 No. 4 seed Mays, 4-3 and 12-1. Northwest Whitfield, the No. 3 seed from the region, split its doubleheader against Region 6 runner-up Druid Hills, winning 3-0 before suffering a 6-3 loss. The other team from Region 7, No. 4 seed Central-Carroll, was eliminated with 3-1 and 9-1 losses at Region 6 champion and No. 1-ranked Marist.