SNELLVILLE - The so-called Sports Illustrated jinx has been talked about for years, but Brookwood was beginning to wonder if a possible USA Today jinx wasn't even worse.
Just days after being ranked No. 1 in high school baseball by the national newspaper, Brookwood was on the verge of having its season come to a shocking and premature close.
Then the Broncos said to heck with jinxes, curses or anything else.
"We couldn't let our season end," Jordan Erisman said. "Not now. Not like this."
Thanks in good part to Erisman, Brookwood is still alive to play again. It took the most dramatic of comebacks to do it, however.
One out away from elimination Saturday, the Broncos tied its elimination game with visiting Alpharetta on back-to-back homers by Erisman and Ross Heffley in the seventh inning, then won 7-5 in the ninth on Erisman's walk-off two-run blast.
The senior shortstop-pitcher was mobbed by happy teammates after circling the bases and Brookwood fans went wild.
There was certainly nothing unlucky about Erisman's 13th homer of the season, which tied the school record set by Lance Layson in 1999.
"What a relief," Erisman said. "I'd been letting my teammates down and I had to make up for it."
Erisman, who had struck out seven times in the series, also got the victory in relief with his longest outing of the season - something Brookwood needed as much as his heroics at the plate.
Erisman (2-0) entered in a wild four-run Alpharetta fifth inning and got the finals 12 outs after some early mildness. He finally ended the big inning with a double play and the final eight Raider batters were retired in order from the seventh through the ninth.
"If there is one thing that you can say about Jordan, it is that he competes," Brookwood coach Rick Howard said.
After winning the second game of Friday's doubleheader to square the best-of-three series, it appeared that everything was back to normal when the Broncos took an early 3-1 lead in the deciding game.
But Alpharetta, the fourth seed from Region 6-AAAAA, went ahead with four runs in the sixth inning despite not having a hit. There was a hitter batter and five walks in the inning, and Brookwood made two errors on the same squeeze bunt.
The Broncos (26-2) had committed five miscues in losing the opener of the series, and hadn't hit, pitched or fielded like it normally does since being ranked No. 1 by USA Today.
"I don't think we felt extra pressure," Heffley said. "But something was definitely wrong. We weren't playing like ourselves."
"These are teenagers," Howard said. "Things affect them. But this team has heart and it sure showed."
Alpharetta starter Zack Garrett got the first two outs quickly in the seventh inning and it didn't look good for Brookwood.
But Erisman blasted a 1-and-1 fastball from Garrett, who had won the extra-inning series opener with two innings of relief. The Broncos were within a run.
Soon it was tied. Senior second baseman Heffley connected with a 1-and-0 curve and drove the ball off the scoreboard in left-center field to force extra innings.
"After Jordan gave us a chance, I had to do my part," said Heffley, who hit his fifth home run.
But the game was just tied. The Broncos needed more heroics and Erisman came through again.
Alpharetta reliever Jonathan Mitchell hit Jon Robinson with one out and Erisman didn't let the game go to a 10th inning.
Mitchell hung a two-strike curve and Erisman smashed it over the fence in right-center field to send the Brookwood fans and players into hysterics.
The Broncos had escaped and the players could get ready for Saturday night's prom.
"It wouldn't have been much fun if we'd lost," Heffley said. "Now we can party."
Region 8-AAAAA champion Brookwood will host Norcross in the second round of the state playoffs, with a doubleheader on Wednesday opening the best-of-three series. Norcross, the No. 2 seed from 7-AAAAA, is 19-8 after sweeping Woodstock and has won eight of its past nine games.
Alpharetta, which finished 18-11, had just four hits Saturday, but four Brookwood pitchers allowed 11 walks.
Matt Adams worked the first 42/3 innings for Brookwood, with the run against him unearned thanks to a second-inning passed ball. He allowed three hits, walked five and struck out four.
Alpharetta coach Chris McRaney lasted just one batter more than Adams. He was ejected when a Raiders runner trying to score on reliever Cameron Hall's pitch to the backstop was called out on a very close play.
Brookwood scored in the first inning on a throwing error and added two runs in the second on Robinson's double. Robinson also had a single in the game, going 2-for-3, while Heffley had a double in addition to his tying home run.
"It was crazy," Heffley said. "But now we've made it past the first step. There are four more to go. We want the state championship."
Brookwood won it all in 1986. If they win the title again, the Broncos will certainly look back to Saturday's late dramatics as a very memorable turning point.
"I know it didn't look good for us," Heffley said. "But we weren't thinking that way. We still believed."