JACKSONVILLE -- Pat Day was gold on the mound in Chapel Hill's 3-2 win against Athens in Game 2 of the two teams' Class 3A bi-distrist playoff series. He struck out the side to close the game and evened the set at one game apiece.

It's never as easy as it looks though.

"All I do is try to throw strikes whether I'm down 3-0 or up 0-2," Day said. "It doesn't matter."

Chapel Hill's Zack Walters throws to first for a double play attempt in Thursday's Game 1 loss. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

He needed a strike badly up against Athens' David Mossberger.

The Bulldogs had breezed out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, but a 2 RBIs double from Michael Conales in the fifth put the game well within reach for the opposing Hornets. A game Athens could use to advance to the 3A Region II area round, nonetheless.

Day's sixth inning was a bit rocky as well.

The Hornets had gotten two men on with two outs by way of a walk and a controversial hit-by-pitch before the University of Houston commitment and Major League Baseball prospect rallied to get a strikeout swinging on a full count.

Here in the seventh inning, with Day just over 100 pitches, Mossberger had worked his way to a count of three balls and no strikes.

No problem.

Day struck him out with three consecutive pitches, then struck out Josh Darden on a 2-2 count and finally got Conales looking to end the game after Athens' best offensive player of the series went ahead on a 3-1 count.

That final strikeout was No. 11 of the game for Day. He only gave up two hits, four walks and that hit-by-pitch.

"He has grown up so much this year in the fact that he knows that when he's on the mound he can take something off of it and get a ground out to get out of a jam," Chapel Hill head coach Ryan Cook said. "He can rev it up to 91 miles per hour to get out of a jam. He's so much more ahead of most high school pitchers, and he has fire and intensity. Just what he brings to us makes us who we are."

Chapel Hill's Andrew Black batted 1-for-3 in Friday's win against Athens. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

The funny thing is the Bulldogs are still within a game of elimination. Athens came from behind twice in Thursday's Game 1 for a 5-4 win.

A decisive Game 3 will be played at 1 p.m. today in Jacksonville.

"We definitely have one of the top pitching staffs in the state and definitely one of the top in the area," Day said. "We definitely have the pitching to outlast not just Athens but a lot of other teams in a three-game series. I definitely think we have a chance."

Chapel Hill's pitcher also had the lone RBI hit for his squad.

Batting cleanup, Day knocked in Braden Nelson who had walked in the second at-bat of the game.

Day's hit put runners at the corners with one out. Freshman right fielder Jaylon Redwine grounded to the second baseman with two outs in the frame, but the ball took a little bounce before it spun out of the glove and into the shallow outfield for a two-run error.

This was the lone defensive mistake of the game, some 23 hours after Chapel Hill had committed four errors in Game 1.

"Errors and walks are going to bring in runs," Cook said. "Fortunately for us, as a staff, we don't walk a lot of people. Therefore, we are capable of making five or six errors in a game and still capable of being in the game because we don't walk anybody. My pitchers know how to command the ball and stay in the strike zone and compete in the strike zone to give us the best chance to win."

Game 3 will be a crapshoot.

Athens does a very good job on the bases. The Bulldogs are advertising a good pitching staff whether someone goes the distance tomorrow or if they get into a pitch by committee situation.

"I'm going to be sore, so hopefully I'll get to play some first base," Day said, laughing. "But we have the guys to get it done."

Chapel Hill's Braden Nelson batted 1-for-2 Friday with a walk and a run scored. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

 

Athens 5, Chapel Hill 4

Class 3A Region II Bi-District Playoff Series -- Game 2

At Jacksonville High School

Athens         000    020    0    --    2    2    1
Chapel Hill   300    000    X    --    3    5    0

Pitchers and catchers
  • Athens: Travis Takata and Brandon Boyd.
  • Chapel Hill: Pat Day and Hudson Mahaffey.

 

WP -- Day.
LP -- Takata.

 

Doubles
  • Athens: Michael Conales.