MONTGOMERY — One bad inning cost Piedmont a Game 1 loss in the Class 3A state baseball finals, but the Bulldogs greeted the blow with one big shrug.
Two errors helped Providence Christian score three runs in the first inning, and the Eagles beat Piedmont 4-0 on Tuesday at Paterson Field.
Game 2 of the best-of-3 series starts Thursday at 10 a.m. at Riverwalk Stadium, followed by a Game 3, if necessary. Piedmont is expected to start Bryce Walter, and Providence Christian will decide between normal Game 2 starter David Warren and Brayden Banner, after evaluating what Eagles coach Casey Smith called an “inside” injury situation.
As for Piedmont, recovering from a Game 1 loss is nothing new.
“We’ve been here before,” senior shortstop Mason Mohon said. “We just have to come out the next game a lot better.”
Piedmont came into Tuesday’s game 8-1 in these playoffs, having outscored opponents 77-22. That one loss came in Game 1 of the second-round series at Lauderdale County.
Piedmont went on to win 8-2 in Game 2 behind Walter and 9-1 in Game 3 behind Mohon.
Providence Christian swept all four of its playoff series leading up to the finals.
“We have pretty good depth on the mound, and I like us in a Game 3,” Piedmont coach Matt Deerman said. “They’re on cloud nine right now. That’s what teams do when they win Game 1. If you can get Game 2, it evens the playing field back up.
“We’ve been there. We’re going to be fine I’ve got faith in these guys.”
Grayson Stewart pitched a two-hit shutout for Providence Christian on Tuesday, striking out nine batters with no walks. T.J. Fairs had both of Piedmont’s hits, including a double to lead off the game.
“Grayson did what he’s been doing all postseason,” Smith said. “He threw strikes. He stayed ahead of everybody and bailed us out of a little trouble when we got in it.”
For Piedmont, the loss marred a strong Game 1 start for Logan Pruitt. He gave up one earned run and six hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
He held Providence Christian scoreless five of the final six innings.
“You can’t complain about that,” Deerman said. “If we can make one of the two plays in the first inning, that gets us going a little bit better.”
Warren led off the Eagles first with a single and took second base on Will Solomon’s sacrifice bunt. Warren scored when Piedmont second baseman Brant Deerman misplayed a Cole Smith grounder, and Pruitt bobbled Stewart’s grounder to the mound.
Warren scored on Deerman’s error, and Smith took second base on Pruitt’s. Pruitt then hit Coleman Wright to load the bases, setting the stage for Banner’s two-run single.
“We came out in the first inning, and I guess you can call it the jitters,” Matt Deerman said. “That kind of set the tone.”
Providence Christian added a run on Banner’s fielder’s choice in the third.
“We’ll be fine tomorrow,” Matt Deerman said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall before. We’ll be back.”