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Baseball: Central sweeps past Mill Creek, into Elite Eight
Forsyth Central junior Jessie Duong slides home Wednesday during the Bulldogs' 10-0 win in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Mill Creek in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs. - photo by David Roberts

HOSCHTON — Aaron Turner entered Wednesday's second-round playoff game against Mill Creek expecting to throw just a handful of innings.

By the time he was finished, Turner had turned in a complete-game shutout, Forsyth Central's lineup had pounded 16 hits, and the Bulldogs used a 10-0 victory to capture the momentum heading into Game 2. 

Central prevailed there, too, winning 7-4 to sweep Mill Creek and reach the Class 7A Elite Eight, where the Bulldogs will face Grayson next week.

Turner surrendered just two hits over seven innings, striking out nine batters.

"No, I was not ready for that," Turner said of his performance. "I was expecting to get maybe one, two, three innings in, but I just kept throwing."

Central's offense staked Turner out to a 5-0 lead before he threw a single pitch. 

Jessie Duong singled in AJ Fiechter, then scored on John Goodrow's fielder's choice. One batter later, Matthew Arundale launched a three-run homer over the right-field fence to cap a five-run first inning.

Duong went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored in Game 1. He added another hit and RBI in the nightcap. 

"Jessie's been seeing the ball well here the last couple weeks," Central coach Kevin McCollum said. "He got some pitches up in the zone that he could handle, and Jessie can hit."

Turner coasted through the middle innings, until pair of walks and a hit batsmen loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. After a brief mound visit, Turner settled in and got Hutch Ezell to ground into a force out to end the threat.

"Aaron was battling an injury there for a little while, but he's a strike-thrower and he threw strikes to keep us in the game," McCollum said. "He did his job."

Turner issued two strikeouts to open the seventh, then Goodrow caught Chandler Klein trying to steal second base to end the game.

Central used a four-run second inning to take control in Game 2, as Will Robbins, Goodrow, Stevie Lyons and Will Nelms each had hits. Lyons' double off the right-center field wall plated Arundale, then Lyons came around to score on Nelms' RBI single.

Robbins cruised through the first three innings, retiring nine straight batters to open the game, before Mill Creek sent eight batters to the plate in the top of the fourth. 

After back-to-back base knocks by Tim Simay and Hayden Stone, Robbins hit Landon DePratter with a pitch, then issued a bases-loaded walk to Caleb Spikes. Ezell delivered a two-run single two batters later to make it a 4-3 game.

But Robbins helped his own cause in the bottom of the fifth, smashing a no-doubt home run over the right-field wall to increase Central's lead to 7-3. Robbins instantly knew it was gone, flipping his bat as he left the batter's box and celebrating with the dugout after touching home plate.

Robbins didn't allow another hit and finished with eight strikeouts over six innings.

Mill Creek staged a late rally in the seventh, when a single and three straight walks by Nicholas Holbrook brought the winning run to the plate, but Jackson Boswell needed only eight pitches to work out of the jam. 

Boswell, with his sidewinder delivery, struck out Simay on three pitches, then fanned Stone on four pitches. 

"He came in and threw strikes. He did a good job," McCollum said. "With that arm angle, and when you throw strikes, he's going to be tougher to hit that way."

Boswell's eighth and final pitch was a ground ball to Duong at first base. Duong stepped on the bag and the celebration was on.

"It's something these guys have been working for all year," McCollum said of Central reaching the Elite Eight. "Hopefully they're not satisfied with where we're at and they've got some more left in the tank and are ready to play some more."