The Long County Blue Tide baseball team has made the state playoffs for the fourth year in a row if you include the 2020 season. The team won their second straight region series by dominating the Brantley County Herons on Friday, April 16 12-2 in six innings.
Coming off a heartbreaking 9-8 loss in Game 2 on Wednesday, April 14 which saw the Tide score four runs in the top of the seventh to go up 8-7, the home team knew they needed a win to stay in contention for the number two seed in the state playoffs.
The Tide opened up the game by sitting down the first nine Heron batters to preserve a perfect game through three innings. They got things going at the plate early as well as Jacob Struble got on base with a single, which followed TJ Criswell and Dwayne Rowe walking.
Daniel Edwards cracked a pop fly to score Rowe and Joseph Cammack followed that up with an RBI single as the Tide led 2-0 going into the second inning.
After Trevor Ray sat down two batters with strikeouts, the Tide loaded the bases in the bottom of the second with one out on the board. Ray’s single was followed up with one by Noah Kuhaneck. Blake Holland singled, but the lead runner was thrown out at third.
Criswell walked for the second straight time to load the bases, while Rowe’s second consecutive walk made the score 3-0. Struble recorded a sacrifice fly to score another run before Edwards crushed a triple to the right field wall to score two more runs and make the score 6-0.
Edwards was able to score on a passed ball at the plate, right before Cammack hit a two-out double with nobody on. Ethan Wells was hit by a pitch, but the Tide’s rally ended where the inning started as Ray was thrown out at first.
The Tide got back to the plate in the bottom of the third and picked up where they left off, but not before getting in a two-out hole. Criswell and Rowe walked for the third straight time of the night as Struble banged a triple off the right field wall to score them both.
Edwards came up to bat as Struble attempted to steal home on the first pitch. He nearly collided with Edwards and was just short of pulling off an incredible play at the plate.
Down 9-0 and yet to have a single base runner, the Herons decided to get something going in the top of the fourth. Ray struck out a batter looking and had another batter in the hole 0-2 before his chopper to second base was mishandled as the perfect game was broken.
A hit batter gave the Herons a little life as a hit broke Ray’s no-hitter bid and loaded the bases with one out. Ray walked a Heron batter to give them their first run, recorded his second strike out, and hit another batter to make the score 9-2.
Struble took the mound from right field and finished off the inning as Ray finished his day with 3 ⅔ innings pitched, four strikeouts, one hit, and two runs allowed.
The Tide did not add any runs in the bottom of the fourth, but Criswell took the mound in the top of the fifth and was on fire.
He sat down three straight Heron batters with strikeouts to preserve his team’s lead. The Tide got going again as Holland singled and stole both second and third, while Criswell walked for the fourth time of the game and stole second.
With one out, Struble recorded his fourth RBI of the night on a sacrifice fly to make the score 10-2. Edwards followed that up by scoring Criswell on a great single up the middle.
The Tide led 11-2 going into the sixth and knew one more run would end the game. Criswell recorded his fourth strikeout as the Tide kept the Herons off the bases and the board.
Wells singled and Ray walked to open the bottom of the inning. Holland got on base on a walk to load the bases. Rowe came to the plate with two outs and walked for the fourth time to end the game at 12-2.
Criswell got the win with four strikeouts and no hits in two innings of work. Struble and Edwards were both 2-2 from the plate with four total RBIs each. Cammack added an RBI and the other three runs for the Tide were unearned on an error and walks.
With the win, the Tide move to 12-10 on the year and 5-4 in the region. They clinch at least the three seed in the state playoffs and will clinch a home playoff series, their first since 2003, with a series win over Appling County next week.
The Pirates, who were off altogether this week, are 9-11 and 5-4 in the region. The Tide will travel to Baxley on Tuesday, April 20 and Friday, April 23 and host their first home game of the regular season on Thursday, April 22.