The Long County Blue Tide baseball team finally got into region play on Tuesday, March 30 as they hosted arguably the other favorite to win Region 1-AAA Pierce County. The Tide knew they would have to play their “A” game to pull out the win in Game 1, but it was a defensive struggle from the beginning as they fell to the Bears 2-1.
The Bears were able to get two on base with no outs and it looked like they would jump out to an early lead. However, the Tide were able to turn a double play at first and second to get two outs, but the Bears were able to put one run on the board.
The Tide got their bats going early in the bottom of the first as senior TJ Criswell cracked a single into centerfield on the very first pitch. He moved to second base on a passed ball but was eventually caught off the bag for the first out while the Tide couldn’t get either of their next two batters on base.
The Tide quickly came out and sat down the next three Bear batters on just five total pitches in the second inning. They were able to get two on base thanks to a single from Joseph Cammack and Trevor Ray being hit by a pitch, but they could not take advantage of the scoring opportunity as they went into the third down 1-0.
The Tide allowed just one hit in the third while junior Jacob Struble made an incredible catch in foul territory, diving to get the third out of the inning.
Going into the fourth, it had been a defensive battle with neither team being able to get much going since the first inning. The Bears finally got their bats going again as Ray allowed two hits to get runners on base for Pierce County.
The Bears were able to get one on the board and, with two outs, looked add at least one more. A Bear cracked a shot into centerfield and as he was rounding third, Cammack fielded the cutoff and tossed it to senior Noah Kuhaneck at the plate, who made a great play to hold onto the ball and tag the runner for the third out as the Tide came to the plate down 2-0.
The Tide could not get any runners on base as they went three up, three down in the bottom of the fourth. Criswell came on the mound for the fifth inning and recorded two strikeouts and no hits as the Bears led 2-0 going into the sixth.
Freshman Landon Runyon took over for the Tide in the sixth and it looked like the Bears were going to increase their lead even further. With just one out, a great bunt down the third base line was able to load the bases.
A chopper to senior Ethan Wells at shortstop looked to score another run, but he made a great play to get an out at second, through the Pierce County runner’s legs, and Cole Moss turned the double play to get the Tide out of bases loaded jam.
Junior Dwayne Rowe opened the sixth inning with a hopper into centerfield to get on first. He advanced to second on a steal and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Struble.
Kuhaneck came to the plate and faced a 2-2 count before the Bears pitcher, who had been nearly flawless for most of the game, committed a balk and brought Rowe home for the Tide’s first run of the game.
The Bears’ pitcher made up for the crucial error as he struck out Kuhaneck and was able to get Cammack out to prevent the Tide from tying the game.
In the final inning, the Bears recorded two more hits and had a man on first and second with two outs. A Bear batter cracked a shot into centerfield, but it was Rowe’s turn to make a play.
He rifled a shot from shallow centerfield all the way to home plate, where Kuhaneck was awaiting. He made a great play to cover the plate and prevent a third run and get the final out of the inning.
The bottom of the lineup was up for the Tide, but they weren’t able to get much going from there. Both Wells and Ray went down as Daniel Edwards, who had been pinch hit earlier in the game, came back to the plate.
His looping shot down the first base line was foul, but the Bears first baseman was able to slide under the ball and make the great play for the third and final out.
With the loss, the Tide fall to 7-7 and 0-1 in the region, having lost three of their last four games. They travel to Blackshear today and host the Bears for the final game of the three game series on Friday, April 2.