The Long County Blue Tide baseball team cruised to another impressive victory Thursday night with a 9-0 shutout over the visiting Charlton County Indians. With the win, the Blue Tide improve to 2-0 on the young season. Long County was able to take advantage of some timely hitting, solid defense, aggressive base running, and lock down pitching to put the visitors behind early.
Charlton County looked as though they would be the first to score when Wade Roddefer led off the game with a ground ball single to left, stole 2nd, and then advanced to third on a pitch in the dirt. But with that runner at 3rd and nobody out, Tide starter Allen Crystal was able to get out of the inning unscathed. Trevor Knowles grounded to shortstop Ethan Wells who was able to look the runner back and get the out at 1st. Next Indian batter Tyler Chesser then grounded to 2nd baseman Luke Wells who again was able hold the runner and get the 2nd out. With 2 outs and the runner still at third, Crystal fanned Sean Russell swinging to end the inning.
The Tide, however, would take advantage of their opportunities and some Indian mistakes in the bottom half of the inning.
Tide center fielder Sophomore TJ Criswell led off the inning with an infield hit to 3rd. After two quick outs, Criswell stole 2nd to get into scoring position. After Indian pitcher Connor Nelson walked Luke Wells, Senior catcher Rex Johnson dropped a bloop double into no-man’s land in right field to score Criswell. A wild pitch would score Wells and a balk would bring home Johnson to give the Tide an early 3-0 lead.
In the end, that’s all Tide hurlers Crystal and Criswell would need. But it isn’t all they would get.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Luke Wells reached on an error on a ground ball to 3rd. Johnson followed with a solid single to center to give the Tide runners on 1st and 2nd with one out. With more aggressive baserunning, the Tide pulled off a double steal and the throw to 3rd wound up in left field scoring Wells and moving Johnson to 2nd. Hayden Beasley walked and freshman DH Joseph Cammack legged out an infield hit to 1st to load the bases.
With Carlos Cruz at the plate, the Tide took aggressive baserunning to the next level. The rare triple steal plated Johnson with the 5th run and moved Beasley and Cammack to 2nd and 3rd. Cruz then singled to center scoring Beasley and plating the 6th Tide run.
Meanwhile, Crystal and Criswell did their part on the mound to make the Tide runs stand. And more solid Tide defense prevented any chance of a comeback. After the 1st inning, the Indians never seriously threatened to score again. Crystal would go 5 solid innings allowing no runs on just 3 hits and two walks, striking out 3. In relief, TJ Criswell threw 2 shutout innings, striking out one and walking none.
The Tide would add a single run in the 5th by putting more pressure on the Indian defense from the base paths when Cruz stole 3rd with two outs forcing yet another Indian throwing error into left field adding the 7th run for the home team.
And again in the 6th inning, Freshman Dwayne Rowe walked, of course stole 2nd, and was driven in with a single to center by Sophomore Ethan Wells. Wells would reach 2nd on a ground ball by Crystal and score on a base hit to left field by Luke Wells.
The Tide took their comfortable 9-0 lead to the top of the 7th and put the game away with a nice 6-4-3 double play turned by Wells, Wells, and Cruz to seal and preserve the shutout.
Rex Johnson paced the Tide offensively going 3-4, including one double, and an RBI. He also registered a caught stealing on the night. Luke Wells, Ethan Wells, and Carlos Cruz also contributed single RBIs for Long County.
Second year head coach James Hobbs, like any good coach, knows his very young team has plenty of room for improvement, but is also overall pleased with where this team is just beginning year 2 of the program. “The guys are hard workers. They have bought into what we are doing. They trust us,” commented Hobbs. “We’re seeing what a difference a year makes, in the weight room and on the field.”
Hobbs has been pleased so far through two games with solid pitching (Tide pitchers have yet to give up an earned run) consistent defense, and aggressive but disciplined base running. One area of concern stands out though. “When we put the ball the ball in play, we barrel it up pretty good. But we strike out too much. Way too much. We will get back to work on that tomorrow.”
The JV teams were also in action and the Tide took that one as well, 14-1.
The Tide will be in action again Saturday when they visit New Hampstead for a 1 p.m. date and a rematch with the Phoenix. They will back at home Monday to host the Jenkins Warriors of Savannah.