Northgate rallies to win baseball season opener

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Northgate's Brad Swinney is all smiles after connecting on a two-run homer in the sixth inning Monday.

By STUART CROSBY stuart@newnan.com Brad Swinney came through for the Northgate Vikings again Monday afternoon with four-plus innings of strong relief and a two-run home run that gave the Vikings an 8-7 come-from- behind victory over the Northside-Columbus Patriots in the season opener for both teams. The win was the 12th victory in 13 season openers for the Vikings, but the outcome was in doubt until late as the Patriots led 7-6 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After Northside reliever Rhett Jones retired the first two batters, Clay Thomas lined a single over the shortstop when Swinney came to the plate and drilled a 2-1 offering over the left field fence for the home run that put Northgate ahead. Momentum would pick up in the top of the seventh inning as Swinney, a 2010 All-County performer, retired the first two batters on groundouts and ended the game by retiring Patriots' starting pitcher Hunter Mitchell on strikes. "Brad did a good job today on the mound and he hit the home run," commented Vikings' head coach Greg Hamilton. "I was proud of the kids for fighting back and giving us a chance to win." The season got off to a rough start for the Vikings as the Patriots scored twice in the top of the first inning, but the Vikings came back in the bottom of the second inning to tie the game at 2-2. Ryan Smith led off with a double, Jesse Copeland reached on a one-out walk and consecutive singles by Jake Handley and starting pitcher Ty Alvey accounted for a run as Smith crossed home and Spencer Sheheane accounted for the other run when he lined a single to right that brought Copeland plateward. In the top of the third inning, the Patriots took a 5-2 lead with two outs in the frame as Alvey surrendered a two-run home run to Will Fuller and a solo home run to Chris Cobb before Hamilton made a pitching change with Swinney. Swinney ended the inning by retiring the next batter on a groundball to Sheheane at third who had six assists and two putouts in the game. Northgate got one of the runs back in the bottom of the third as Swinney doubled to left and moved to third on a Smith groundout before scoring on a sacrifice fly hit by Tyler Bowers. Swinney proved to be human in the top of the fourth inning as he surrendered a two-run home run to Dylan Brittingham after two outs. The Vikings refused to quit as they rallied with two outs in the bottom of the inning as Sheheane reached on an infield error while Blake Page and Clay Thomas reached on walks to load the bases for Swinney. Swinney came through as he singled to left field with Sheheane and Page crossing home plate to cut the margin to 7-5. The lead was cut to 7-6 when Smith followed with a single past the second baseman allowing Thomas to come home.


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