The Long County Blue Tide baseball team is finally riding a wave of momentum. After winning the final two games of their region series against Tattnall County last week, they opened this week with a win over Brantley County in Game 1 on Tuesday, April 13.
The game started off rough for the Tide defensively as the Herons got two runners on base after a walk and a hit batter. A sacrifice fly gave Brantley County the 1-0 lead in the early going.
The Tide held strong, allowing no hits in the first inning, and junior pitcher Jacob Struble was able to get the last out on a strikeout. The Tide started off strong at the plate as senior TJ Criswell’s chopper to shortstop along with a bad throw allowed him to reach not only first base, but get all the way around to third.
Struble stepped up to the plate and laid down a great bunt as Criswell got home and tied the game. Daniel Edwards walked and Joseph Cammack singled as Ethan Wells came up to the plate with one out and two men on.
However, the Tide were not able to take advantage of the great position as the Herons got the next two batters out and the game was tied at one going into the second inning.
The Tide did a good job to keep the Herons from getting much going in the inning, only getting one base runner on a walk. They came back up to bat as Blake Holland walked, Noah Kuhaneck singled, and Brennan Lee reached first on an error, but Holland was thrown out at third.
Despite missing out on the chance to load the bases, the Tide took advantage. Criswell came back to the plate at the top of the order and cracked a single to give his Tide the 2-1 lead going into the third inning.
The Herons got their bats going again in the third inning as they recorded two hits and a walk and loaded the bases with one out on the board. They were able to get a run and tie the game on an error, but Struble was able to stay strong and force two outs to get his team out of the jam.
The scored remained tied going into the fourth inning as Criswell took over on the mound. He allowed one hit and a walk, but this was after striking out two Heron batters. He sat down the third with another strikeout as the Tide came back to the plate.
Criswell’s at bat was sandwiched between two outs, but he made the most of it as he singled and stole second. Edwards came up to bat with two outs and was able to bang a single into left field and score Criswell, giving the Tide a 3-2 lead going into the fifth inning.
The Tide went three up, three down in the fifth as they maintained the 3-2 lead. Wells opened the bottom of the fifth with a single and was able to get around to third after a few sacrifice at bats by Trevor Ray and Holland.
Kuhaneck was able to just get to first base on an error with two outs as Wells got home to extend the Tide’s lead to 4-2. Brantley’s coach came out to argue the close call at the plate and ended up getting thrown out of the game for repeatedly, and loudly, disagreeing with the three umpires.
Losing their head coach seemed to hurt the Herons as they once again could not get much going in the top of the sixth. Criswell recorded two more strikeouts as the Tide sat down three straight batters.
With a 4-2 lead going into the seventh, the Tide just needed three outs to get the win. The Herons, however, would not go away lightly. They led off the inning with a stand up double and that runner was scored two batters later on another double.
However, after his sixth strikeout in three innings, Criswell forced the Herons into two pop flys as the Tide moved on to the 4-3 win.
Criswell was electric on the mound coming into the game in the fifth inning. He recorded six strikeouts and allowed three hits and one run. Criswell also went 2-3 from the plate with an RBI.
Edwards recorded an RBI in the fourth inning, while Struble had an RBI on a sacrifice bunt in the first inning.
With the victory, the Tide move to 11-9 and 4-3 in region play, putting themselves in good position to clinch a home game in the playoffs for the first time since 2003. They will play Game 2 today and host the Herons for Game 3 on Friday, April 16.