The Long County Blue Tide baseball team traveled to hostile territory Thursday night looking for a second win this season over the Charlton County High Indians. Earlier this year, the Tide blanked the Indians 9-0 in Ludowici, but history has proven that winning in Folkston is not an easy task for any team. And although the Indians led the first 5 innings, the Tide rallied late to complete the season sweep with a 5-1 victory.
Charlton County always provides an atmosphere that can be intimidating to a visiting team, especially one that starts 3 freshmen and only one senior. But Long County handled it well, and it all started with the lone Tide senior, pitcher Rex Johnson, who led the young team with a gritty, efficient night on the mound.
“it’s good to see that environment. That’s what you’re going to see at Appling, Pierce, Brantley,” commented Long coach James Hobbs. “I thought we handled it well and were able to rise up to it.”
While the Blue Tide struggled to push across runs when they had the opportunity early in the game, Johnson showed why he has become the senior leader the Tide can count on. His focus and tenacity on the mound kept his team in the game, setting the stage for a late inning comeback.
“Rex proved with that performance that he is ready to be the game one starter headed into region play,” Hobbs said. “Really proud of the way he battled on the mound and kept us in the ball game.”
The Indians scored first, in the first, on an RBI single before the Tide could record an out to take an early 1-0 lead. From that point on, both pitchers would settle in and keep the opposing offenses in check until the top of the 6th inning.
Long was able to put runners at 2nd and 3rd in the top of the 1st inning, but over the next 4 innings only managed to put 1 runner in scoring position, as the Indians kept Blue Tide hitters off balance with a steady diet of off-speed pitches.
Meanwhile, Johnson was equally effective on the mound, and he was backed up as usual by tremendous Blue Tide defense. As the game moved briskly through to the 5th inning, the top of the 6th would prove to be the pivotal point of the game when the Tide, as they have done on multiple occasions this season, put a crooked number on the board in a single inning.
The Tide got the scoring going when with runners at 2nd and 3rd, the Indians decided to walk Ethan Williams to load the bases, setting up a force at every bag. That would bring freshman Dwayne Rowe to the plate with a chance to do damage. And he did. Rowe drove a high fastball over the center fielder’s head, short-hopping the fence for a long 2 RBI single, scoring Allen Crystal and Luke Wells, who had reached on an error and a double, respectively. Long County would score one more when a come-backer to the mound was thrown away allowing Rowe to score from 2ndand giving the Blue Tide a 3-1 lead.
Long would score two more insurance runs in the top of the 7th on the strength of a ringing double by Joseph Cammack, a single from TJ Criswell, a couple of Indian errors, and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Rex Johnson. Criswell relieved Johnson for the final 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th, and the Tide walked away with an emotional, well-earned 5-1 victory.
“That was a big comeback win for us tonight,” Hobbs commented. “That was the first game this year that felt like a region game.”
For the Blue Tide, TJ Criswell went 2-4 with an RBI, Rex Johnson was 1-3 with an RBI, and Dwayne Rowe had a single and 2 big go-ahead RBI. Luke Wells and Joseph Cammack added a double each. Allen Crystal and Carlos Cruz added a single apiece in the winning effort.
Rex Johnson got the win, going 6 1/3 innings, scattering 7 hits, 1 run, and striking out a Blue Tide season high 9 batters. He only allowed 1 walk, allowing his defense to help him work through the 7 hits. Criswell pitched a scoreless 2/3 of an inning.
The Tide will be back in action Wednesday when they pay the Tigers of Bradwell Institute a visit for a JV and varsity double header beginning at 4 p.m.