Grayson makes statement with 10-4 win over South

LOGANVILLE -- If Wednesday's win over Brookwood wasn't enough of an indication that Grayson's baseball team is finally starting to find its stride, the Rams really made a statement Saturday against Region 8-AAAAAA-leading South Gwinnett.

Casey Collins, Jack Banda and Taylor Allum spoke perhaps the loudest and clearest by leading an 11-hit attack in Grayson's 10-6 victory.

But pretty much every individual in the line-up contributed, with eight of the nine starters in the batting order recording at least one hit to help the Rams (14-7, 9-2) post their sixth straight win and pull to within a half-game of the Comets (16-4, 9-1) of the region lead.

"We knew this was a big one to get back to where we want to be in the region standings," Grayson coach Jed Hixson said. "We were excited to get this one (Saturday) and jump on them early."

Indeed, Grayson took the lead in the bottom of the second to grab early momentum, and it was Collins who made sure the Rams not only grabbed that momentum, but kept it.

First, he followed one-out hits by Banda and Oscar Valdes with a single up the middle that brought in both runners to give Grayson a 2-0 lead.

Then, after Chris Erwin's two-out, RBI single extended the lead to 3-0, Erwin came up with a big play in the field in the next half-inning.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior fielded Mason Hart's single to left cleanly and fired a strike to the plate just in time to gun down courtesy runner JoJo Borrego on a bang-bang play at the plate to keep the Rams' three-run advantage intact.

"I kind of went to (the ball) slow because I was (playing) so shallow," said Collins, who finished the day 2-for-3 with the two RBIs at the plate. "I knew if I could throw (Borrego) out, it would help the team. It was big, especially with momentum."

Grayson then really secured momentum with four runs in the fourth, with a two-run single by Allum and a two-run double by Banda the big blows, and then answered a South run in the fifth with three more in the bottom of the inning with an Austin Meadows RBI triple, an RBI double by Allum and a run-scoring single by Korey Anderson to push the lead to a comfortable 10-1.

Anderson (6-0), who pitched brilliantly the first five innings, then began to tire, giving up a lead-off solo home run to Montrell Marshall and a walk to Colton Nash before giving way to the bullpen.

But South remained patient against Collins, with pinch-hitter Borrego and Zack Bogardts each drawing a walk against the Grayson left-hander before Jon Briley came in and hit Mitchell Davis with the bases loaded.

A passed ball later, the Comets were suddenly to within 10-4, and threatened to pull even closer by re-loading the bases with leading hitter Ryan Patterson coming to plate with two outs.

The senior lefty slugger then sent a liner deep to right that had the potential for an extra-base hit, but Erwin ran it down and reached up for the catch about 10 feet in front of the wall to keep Grayson's lead at a comfortable six runs, and avoid the sixth-inning problems the Rams have suffered through much of the season.

"(Escaping the sixth) was good to see," Hixson said. "We've allowed games that we've been up in to slip away in the past."

Briley then threw a scoreless seventh to close out the game and secure the win for Anderson, who scattered five hits and three runs and struck out three over five innings.

The Rams also got a big day at the plate from Allum (2-for-3, three RBIs) and Banda (2-for-3, two doubles, two RBIs).

Meanwhile, South, which got two hits and an RBI from Davis, is eagerly looking forward to the rematch with Grayson, which will come with a quick turnaround on Wednesday following a region game for each team on Monday.

"(Grayson) swung the bats well (Saturday), and we kicked it around a little too much to stay in it," Comets coach Steve Teschner said. "We get another shot at them (Wednesday). We're still in first place. Nobody's in panic mode. We still like where we are. We've just got to take it one (game) at a time."