Third time is a charm. After back to back disappointing endings to the first two games with the Tattnall County Warriors, Long County’s baseball team was able to salvage game 3 of the series in an early almost must-win game. This time, like the two games before, the Tide carried a lead into the 7th inning Friday in Ludowici. But this time, they were able to close the deal defeating the Warriors 6-3 to move to 1-2 in region play.
As was the case Monday, Senior Rex Johnson toed the rubber for the home team and gave his teammates another gutsy, grind-it-out performance. Except this time, Johnson recorded the victory going 6 1/3 innings allowing 3 runs on 8 hits, striking out 1 and walking 2.
The Tide took a 1-0 lead in the 2nd on a triple to right, scoring Johnson, by Freshman left fielder Dwayne Rowe, who has been a clutch fielder, hitter, and baserunner for the Tide as the season has progressed despite his young age.
The Warriors tied the game in the 4th, but the Tide broke the game open with 5 runs in the bottom of the 5th. The inning was highlighted by singles from Johnson and Rowe to start the inning, a clutch 1 out 2-run double by another Freshman, catcher Joseph Cammack, and an RBI single by TJ Criswell.
As was the case in the 1st two meetings of the series, the Blue Tide again held a lead of more than one run heading to the 7th inning, 6-2. Only this time despite an error, one hit, and a hit batsman, The Tide were able to get out of the inning allowing just one run and held on for a much-needed victory, 6-3.
TJ Criswell came on to get the final two outs in a pressure situation in any game, but especially in light of how the 1st two games ended. With runners on 1st and 2nd, he was able to strikeout Warrior left fielder Tay Black and 3rd baseman Nick McCall, the number 3 and 4 hitters in the Warrior lineup, to end the threat and the game. It was only the 2nd time in 3 games that Blue Tide pitchers were able to retire Black.
Tide coach James Hobbs was proud of the way his team bounced back from the bitter disappointment of the 1st two games. “(This game) says a lot about how tough these kids are and their character. They were down, but they came to practice, worked hard, and showed no quit. Couldn’t be more proud of this group.”
As for how and why the 1st two games ended the way they did, Hobbs attributed it to growing pains. “We are a young team that hasn’t been put in this situation this year. Region games are a different kind of pressure that you can’t simulate in practice or even non-region games.”
The Blue Tide will put what they have learned to the test when they square off next week with three games against the always tough Pierce County Bears. Games will be played Monday and Friday in Blackshear, and Wednesday in Ludowici. All starting times will be at 6 p.m.