SMYRNA — When the final out was recorded in North Greene’s 6-1 win over South Fulton in the opening game of the Class A baseball state tournament at Stewarts Creek High School on Tuesday night, it was tough to tell who was more excited, coach Jason Lowe or his Huskies.
“We’re not just happy to be here. We’re here to make some noise,” said a fired-up Lowe, whose Huskies are playing in the state tournament for the first time since 2017. “Winning that first one is huge. If you lose this one, you’ve got to get up and play again at 10 o’clock in the morning. And if you win that one, you have to play again at 5 or 5:30.
“We get to sleep in a little bit now. And if we can come out and win tomorrow, we’re in the driver’s seat. One at a time.”
North Greene, now 27-8, will play Moore County – an 8-2 winner over South Pittsburg – at 12:30 p.m. Central Time Wednesday at Stewarts Creek.
South Fulton, now 23-12 and playing in its first state tournament, will face South Pittsburg in an elimination game in the losers bracket at 10 a.m. Central Time Wednesday at Stewarts Creek.
“We’ll have Cayden (Foulks) pitching tomorrow. I feel like he’s dialed in,” Lowe said. “Moore County seems to hit the baseball pretty well, so we’re going to have to hit the baseball. But I like where we’re at right now.”
North Greene starter Carson Whaley turned in a sparkling effort against South Fulton. He pitched 6 2/3 innings, gave up three hits, an unearned run, walked three and struck out six.
The left-hander now has 103 strikeouts on the season. He was lifted after throwing his 104th and 105th pitches – both balls – to South Fulton’s cleanup hitter Eli Carlisle with runners on first and second and two out in the bottom of the seventh.
Foulks needed just two pitches to get Carlisle to hit a popup in front of the plate that he caught to end it.
“Carson has been tough all year,” Lowe said. “I think he’s put up all-state numbers. Anytime you have a guy like that on the mound, you don’t have to have a whole lot of offense.”
For the first three innings, South Fulton starter Brock Brown was equally as tough, limiting North Greene to just one hit – a lead-off single in the second by Carter Morelock.
The Huskies broke through against the right-hander with three runs in the fourth.
Jonah Palmer hit a deep fly ball over the head of South Fulton’s left fielder that drop in for a double.
“I just put a good swing on it,” said Palmer, who watched the drive for a moment before sprinting to second. “It got down, luckily. I thought it was going to go out, honestly, but I hit it too high.”
Morelock then lined a shot off Brock’s glove that trickled toward second South Fulton’s second baseman for an infield hit to put Huskies on first and third.
After Morelock took second on defensive indifference, Tucker Owen singled to left to score Irving Medina – running for Palmer – for a 1-0 lead.
Morelock and Owen moved to third and second on a wild pitch, and Dakota Robbins placed a squeeze bunt perfectly up the first-base line that scored Morelock for a 2-0 lead.
North Greene made it 3-0 when Micah Jones reached on a throwing error by South Fulton’s shortstop that allowed Owen to score.
South Fulton pushed across a run in the fifth to pull within 3-1.
Bryce McFarland worked a two-out walk and took third when Cade Malray lifted a high popup to shallow center that Morelock lost in the lights, allowing the ball to drop in for a single.
Brown then reached on an error that scored McFarland to make it 3-1.
North Greene scored three runs – two unearned – in the seventh for a 6-1 cushion.
Foulks lined a single to right to lead off the inning before Chance Campbell was hit by a pitch and Whaley reached on a bunt to load the bases.
Palmer then hit a ground ball to South Fulton third baseman Brady McFarland – an eighth-grader – who skipped a throw past first base. Foulks and Campbell scored to give North Greene a 5-1 lead, and Palmer wound up at second.
Two outs later, Irving – running for Palmer – scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Owen for the game’s final margin.
North Greene finished with eight hits. Whaley and Morelock each were 2-for-4; Palmer had the double and an RBI; Owen had a hit and two RBI; Robbins had a hit and an RBI; and Foulks had a hit.
“We have a great team,” Whaley said. “If I go out there and throw like I can, we get enough run support and our defense is pretty good. It was good enough to get a win tonight.”