WOODSTOCK — River Ridge coach Scott Bradley said his team had three great days of practice leading up to the opening round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
On Thursday, they carried that effort over to the games.
The Knights swept Kennesaw Mountain in two games, winning the first 12-5 and then coming from behind to win the second 6-5.
River Ridge (26-5) advanced to the second round where it will host East Paulding, beginning with a doubleheader Wednesday.
Trailing 4-2 with one out in the seventh in Game 2, the Knights began their rally against the Mustangs’ bullpen with a double by Andrew Neubert, who then scored on a triple by Taylor Harris. With two out, Connor Donaldson’s single brought home Harris to tie the game.
After River Ridge scored two more runs to take a 6-4 lead, Kennesaw Mountain answered with one in the bottom of the seventh, but it was not enough.
Ryan Taylor pitched 5 1/3 innings and struck out five for River Ridge.
“I’ve got to be honest, that’s been the story of our team,” Bradley said. “I think this is our eighth or ninth time we have came back and won — plus, we have won 12 or more games by two runs or less.”
Kennesaw Mountain used three home runs — two by C.J. Whaley, who finished 4-for-4 with a double and three RBIs in Game 2, and one by Drew Narine — to help build its lead. Sam Parker made the lead stand up for six innings, allowing only three hits and two runs while striking out nine.
Kennesaw Mountain closed the season 17-15, but the Mustangs set themselves up for success in the future.
“All those guys you saw out here, besides CJ Whaley, are all babies — freshmen and sophomores,” Kennesaw Mountain coach George Hansen said. “We’re not going anywhere, and we have some work to do to get to where we want to go. I’m proud of my team’s effort (Thursday), and you have to give River Ridge credit where credit is due.”
River Ridge did not allow Kennesaw Mountain to stay as close in Game 1.
Trailing 1-0 in the second, Neubert doubled and later scored to tie the game. He gave the Knights the lead for good in the second with a three-run home run to put them up 4-2.
Neubert reached base in all four plate appearances and drove in five.
“Well he’s been our leader and captain,” Bradley said. “He was so dominant today that, if I was pitching against him, I’d walk him even if the bases were loaded.”
River Ridge went on to score eight runs in the third to build a 12-2 lead.
Parker finished with two hits, including a double, for Kennesaw Mountain, and Ethan Snipes added a hit and an RBI.