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Grayson takes another win over South and Region 8-AAAAAA lead

SNELLVILLE -- Apparently, a four-day turnaround in getting a Region 8-AAAAAA baseball rematch with South Gwinnett didn't hurt Grayson.

The Rams, however, did manage their second win over the Comets in that time -- Wednesday's 5-2 win at John B. Sawyer Field -- in a decidedly different manner from their first victory.

After posting a fairly dominating 10-4 home win Saturday, Grayson (16-7, 11-2) scored twice in both the second and third innings, and then had to watch as three different pitchers managed to escape trouble in every inning to take sole possession of first place in the region by a half-game over South (17-5, 10-2) and Parkview.

"We were a little concerned seeing (South) twice so close together," Rams coach Jed Hixson said. "Fortunately, it worked out in our favor. ... It was a little frustrating we didn't get more (runs). ... Those are the fundamental things that have got to get done if we're going to win in big situations. They did leave a lot of runners as well.

"Our cry (lately) has been one game at a time, and we'll try to continue that."

True, Grayson did leave nine baserunners on base throughout the day, but Rams pitchers Jack Banda (3-1), Jon Briley and Korey Anderson made sure South stranded even more -- 13, to be exact.

"We had plenty of chances," Comets coach Steve Teschner said. "We just didn't swing (the bats) when it mattered. The kids competed. We just didn't get it done."

The stranded runners kept South from answering after Grayson managed to get on the board early.

Brandon Benson's two-run home run off South ace Ryan Patterson (6-1) put the Rams up 2-0 in the second, while Grayson added to the lead an inning later when Austin Meadows drove in a run with an infield single and Anderson added an RBI on a fielder's choice grounder to make the lead 4-0.

Banda pitched around Morgan Miller's lead-off single, an error and hitting Drew McCarthy with a pitch to leave the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, and then stranded two more South runners in the third.

The Comets did finally get on the board on Montrell Marshall's run-scoring double in the bottom of the fifth, which marked the end of the day for Banda, who gave way to Briley.

The right-hander then got Morgan Miller to hit a grounder to short, and Benson threw behind Marshall to get the South shortstop into a brief rundown before Oscar Valdes applied the tag for the second out of the inning.

Colton Nash then beat out an infield single to bring the tying run to the plate, but Briley retired Chad Smith on a fly ball to center to keep Grayson's lead intact.

The Rams added an insurance run when Meadows drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the sixth to make the score 5-1, and that run proved important as South tried to rally one last time in the seventh.

Marshall led off the frame by belting a solo homer to left to cut the Rams' lead to 5-2, and Nash drew a one-out walk, followed by a Smith double to help the Comets bring the tying run to the plate once again.

Hixson then called on Anderson, who got the win in a start against South on Saturday, to try to close things out.

And the senior right-hander delivered, striking out McCarty and getting Zach Bogardts to bounce to short, which Benson handled cleanly on the short-hop before throwing onto first to seal Anderson's second save of the season, and the win for Grayson.

In addition to the key hits and RBIs from Meadows and Benson, the Rams also got a 2-for-3 day from Chris Erwin, which also included a triple, while Banda had two hits at the plate, including a double, in addition to throwing four-plus innings and giving up just one run on five hits with four strikeouts on the mound.

Marshall finished the day 2-for-4 with the double, homer and both of the Comets' RBIs on the day, while McCarthy also had two hits on the day, finishing 2-for-3.