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Heritage dominates
in first round of state baseball playoffs
Patriots sweep South Paulding

DOUGLASVILLE - South Paulding didn't give Tyler Austin much to hit in Game 1 of the first-round series at Spartan Stadium. Game 2 was a different story, and the home team paid dearly for it.

Austin hit two solo home runs and Kelvan Diaz was dazzling on the mound as the Patriots followed an 11-1 drubbing in the opener with a 3-0 victory in the nightcap to sweep the Class AAAA series.

Austin took advantage of two mistakes by South Paulding starter Colby Smith, crushing a hanging curve ball to left field in the first inning, followed by a long home run off a hanging splitfinger fastball in the second for a 2-0 Heritage lead.

"(Austin) was very good for us today," said Heritage coach Casey Teal. "Two swings of the bat we're sitting there (ahead) 2-0; you see how important it is.

It was more than enough for Diaz. The senior right-hander was dominant, striking out 12 and scattering three hits in a complete game shutout.

"Diaz has matured as a baseball player and this game just showed (that)," said Teal. "He's come so far; he's been solid for us."

Smith struck out 14 in a complete game, 123-pitch effort.

Heritage (20-8) rolled in the opener, a game shortened to six innings by the mercy rule. The Patriots got to South Paulding starter Bradley Mills (3 IP, 4 ER, 7 BB) in the second inning, sending 10 batters to the plate. Elliott Walker led off with a single and scored when Mills threw wide of third base on a pickoff attempt. Zane Barefield followed with a two-run double, and later scored on the back end of a double steal to give Heritage a 4-0 cushion.

Game 1 starter Anthony Bazzani was the beneficiary, striking out 10 and allowing an unearned run in a two-hit victory.

"Bazzani did well," Teal said. "When you get that kind of pitching (from both starters), it gives us a chance to win."

Bazzani helped his own cause with an opposite-field home run to right field in the third inning. Later in the frame, Austin drew his third walk of the game, stole second and scored on a dropped fly ball to put Heritage up 6-0. South Paulding (16-11) picked up its only run of the day in the bottom of the third when Aaron Wilson reached on an error and scored on Brandon Black's sacrifice fly to make it a 6-1 game. But Heritage kept chipping away, adding two runs in the fifth on Ryan Cochran's single, and another run in the sixth on Bazzani's double.

"We did some good things on offense; I'm proud of our kids," said Teal. "We get to go to round two."