Providence Christian baseball coach Adam Cantrell says he's never been big on birthdays.
But his Stars were big on birthday presents Tuesday in Game 3 of their Class A series against visiting Treutlen County.
Providence helped celebrate Cantrell's 36th birthday by hitting three grand slam home runs and dispensing the Vikings 15-4 to advance to the state finals.
Christin Stewart, Tyler Brown and Nick Stidman all cleared the bases with home runs as the Stars easily won the game, which was ended in six innings by the 10-run mercy rule. After losing the first game to Treutlen, Providence outscored the Vikings 25-4 in the final two games.
"The thing that makes this run so special is how we've faced adversity," Cantrell said. "We struggled at times in the field. We struggled at times on the mound and we struggled at times at the plate. None of those things have kept us from advancing to the next round. That's what's special about these guys; they never quit."
Stewart, the Gwinnett County leader in home runs, hit the first pitch he saw in the second inning for a grand slam (also only his first hit of the series) to give the Stars a 5-1 lead. Stewart went 1-for-5 in the series, but was walked eight times intentionally.
The Vikings scored in the bottom of the second to cut the lead to 5-2 but that was close as the visitors from Soperton would come.
In the fifth, with a 7-2 lead, Stidman increased the Providence lead to 11-2 with his grand slam. After Treutlen got the first two outs of the inning, Austin Loyd singled, Stewart was intentionally walked (again) and Austin Smith was hit by a pitch before Stidham hit his big fly.
In the sixth, with the score 11-3, Erich Stahl walked and Josh Carter and Alan Skinner both bunted for singles to set up Brown's slam for a 15-3 lead.
Brown said didn't even realize his home run was a grand slam. "I hit a grand slam? I just got up there [to the plate] and said I want to get a hit," he said.
The Vikings added a meaningless run for the final margin as Brown caught the final out of the game.
Providence will play Hebron Christian of Dacula Saturday in the state finals. The time has not been determined; Providence's graduation ceremony is scheduled Saturday at 10 .m.
"This is the sweetest one so far," Cantrell said of his teams accomplishments this season. "This team has accomplished something no other Providence team has done thus far. We've done it in a way that we haven't done in the entire playoffs when we dropped that first game.
"Today we just showed ... that we weren't really ready to be done yet."