JACKSONVILLE — The stage was not too big for Piedmont baseball.
The Bulldogs used a four-run fourth inning to take down Trinity Presbyterian 4-2 in Game 1 of the Class 3A state championship at Rudy Abbot Field at Jim Case Stadium.
Game 2 will be played Tuesday at 10 a.m. An a "if necessary" Game 3 scheduled right after.
Max Hanson had the big it in the second inning for Piedmont (36-5), a two RBI single. It did not leave the infield, but the speedy center fielder beat it out. Sloan Smith was running hard with two outs and scored.
"I barely got a piece of it and Sloan was on second and he was going to score the whole time," Hanson said.
Right fielder Christopher Bryant helped the Bulldogs cause with a dropped fly ball that would have ended the inning.
"I really got lucky on that," Piedmont pitcher Jack Hayes said. "I thought I had flown out to end the inning. I got out of the box, got a double out of it and we scored two runs."
Bryant exacted some revenge in the top of the fourth inning when he singled to drive in a run for Trinity Presbyterian (31-7). Jordan Jenkins drove in Christopher for the second run.
Hayes picked up the win in a complete-game effort. He allowed two earned runs on nine hits. He struck out four and walked a hitter.
"They were a lot cleaner than we were," Trinity coach Jarrod Cook said. "At the end of the day we just didn't do enough. We had nine hits and just squandered some opportunities."
Catcher Kale Austin threw out a runner trying to steal second base following a leadoff single in the fifth. Austin Estes also turned a 6-3 double play to end the third inning.
"We came up with some big hits and big outs in some situations, and that was the difference in the ball game," Piedmont coach Matt Deerman said. "One time we turned a double play and another time Kale threw a runner out at second base. We made plays that helped us get our momentum back and keep the lead late."
Ben Easterling struck out six in six innings of work, allowing two earned runs on five hits.
"All my off-speed stuff was on," Easterling said. "They were off balance. I could just tell by the way they were guessing at pitches."
Piedmont, which is around 15 minutes from Jacksonville, had a ton of fan support. Attendance announced was 1,842. Two-thirds of the crowd favored the team from nearby. Capacity for the park is 2,020.
"Piedmont fans are the greatest in the state," Deerman said. "It doesn't matter if it's baseball, basketball, football or softball. They are always out to support you and that's what fuels our community."
"We've lost Game 1 twice (in the playoffs)," Cook said. "So you know, there's no panic. We got to go out and make more plays than they do."
Contact Ehsan Kassim at 256-300-5313 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Ehsan_Kassim.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Piedmont baseball beats Trinity Presbyterian in Game 1 of state series