Photo: Craig Cappy Grayson's Taylor Allum (13) slides in to home plate and is tagged out by Peachtree Ridge catcher Tyler Chaney (18) during Friday's game.
SUWANEE -- A long, crazy night of baseball featured plenty of late fireworks in both ends of Friday's first-round Class AAAAA state playoff doubleheader between Grayson and Peachtree Ridge.
The No. 3 state-ranked Rams erupted for five runs in the top of the seventh of the opener to break open a tie game and give them the series lead with a 9-4 win.
But in the nightcap, the host Lions rallied for three runs in the sixth, featuring a controversial play at the plate, to erase an early three-run deficit and earn a split with a 4-3 win.
The best-of-three series will be decided with a third game this afternoon at 4 p.m. at Peachtree Ridge (18-10), with Grayson (21-7) acting as home team after winning the post-doubleheader coin flip.
But after 5 hours and 2 minutes of baseball, little has been decided between the two teams, though after dropping Game 1, Peachtree Ridge coach Ryan Hanik is just happy for his team to have a chance today.
And given how competitive Region 7-AAAAA was this season, he isn't surprised.
"It was just a great team effort," Hanik said of the Lions' second-game win. "We have 24 guys, and it took every one of them (Friday) night. One thing I'll say is we've been in a lot of these ball games. ... Our kids have been in this situation. So, it's not an overwhelming situation."
About the only thing overwhelming on the entire night was Grayson's deciding rally late in a back-and-forth opening game that featured 23 combined hits, five combined errors and four lead changes, by sending 10 batters to the plate.
Austin Meadows jumped on a 1-1 offering from Coltan Ramsey (4-5) to lead off the top of the seventh with a solo home run to push the Rams in front 5-4.
One out later, Jack Banda drew a walk and courtesy runner Juan Flores stole second before Peachtree Ridge elected to intentionally walk Chris Erwin, who was 3-for-3 with an RBI to that point, to set up a potential double play.
But the move backfired when Korey Anderson jumped on the first pitch from reliever Harrison Wengryn and sent a drive to left-center just high enough to clear the wall for a three-run homer, breaking open Grayson's lead to 8-4.
Brandon Benson added another insurance run with a sacrifice fly, and Banda (3-2) pitched a scoreless inning in the bottom of the seventh to put the Rams up 1-0 in the series.
Grayson kept up that momentum in the bottom of the first of the nightcap, scoring twice in the bottom of the first and stealing another run in the third when Taylor Allum kept going after drawing a walk to draw a rundown before a double steal brought Meadows home, making the Rams' lead 3-0.
But Peachtree Ridge began to chip away on Best's RBI double in the fourth and another run-scoring hit by Best in the sixth, pulling the Lions to within 3-2 before controversy arose later in the inning.
With runners on second and third and two outs, Tripp Miller lined a single into right to bring home pinch-runner Chris Wagner with the tying run that knotted the score 3-3.
But courtesy runner Hyle Ward also rounded third and headed to the plate, drawing a strong throw from Erwin in right.
The throw short-hopped catcher Colton Harrelson, who appeared to corral the ball and apply the tag to Ward, who collided with Harrelson trying to evade the tag, and drawing an apparent out call from the home-plate umpire.
However, the call was reversed after a conference with the base umpires.
When the dust settled after the ensuing discussion and argument, Harrelson left the game with an injury suffered in the collision and Hyle had scored the go-ahead run to put Peachtree Ridge in front 4-3.
Best, who finished the doubleheader 5-for-6 with three doubles and five RBIs, then added an insurance run with an RBI single in the top of the seventh, allowing Tyler Haswell (5-2) to close out a complete-game win after giving up five hits and two earned runs with eight strikeouts on 107 pitches, and force today's deciding game.
Grayson, which was led by Erwin (4-for-6, RBI), Allum (3-for-6, RBI) and Meadows (two hits, 2 RBIs, 4 SBs), has little time to dwell on the second game.
"Any time you got to Game 3, whoever won Game 1 is disappointed," said Grayson coach Seth Rhine. "It's just a matter of us regaining our poise and composure and doing what we need to do (today) and playing the game a little than we did in Game 2."