SNELLVILLE -- As talented and experienced as Grayson's baseball team is, one area in which the Rams haven't performed well so far this season is putting games away.
The sixth inning has been a particular culprit, and it was again in Wednesday night's Region 8-AAAAAA game against Brookwood.
The host Broncos scored seven runs in that fateful frame, keyed by Alvaro Castillo's three-run double that sparked a come-from-behind 9-5 victory at the Dave Hunter Complex.
It was the third time in the last four games Grayson (5-5, 2-2), which came into the season appearing in many sets of national rankings, has fallen victim to a nightmarish sixth-inning rally in a loss.
"The bottom line is we just didn't do some fundamental things well," Rams coach Jed Hixson said. "And it's not just in the sixth inning. Early in the ball game, we made some basic mistakes that are just killing us. It's absolutely mental. What we've been trying to teach (the players) is to be more mentally tough. Even when we're up (early), we have to have the mentality to put (the opponent) away."
That was something Brookwood (6-5, 2-0) would not allow Grayson to do despite the Rams jumping out to leads of 4-0 through the first two innings and 5-2 heading into the decisive bottom of the sixth.
"I was really proud of our kids," Brookwood coach Rick Howard said. "(Grayson) went up 4-0 pretty easy. To (starting pitcher Matt) Aycock's credit, he went down and had some shutdown innings after that, which gave us a chance to be in it."
And the Broncos took advantage in the bottom of the sixth, which catcher Zach Moon got off to a good start by drawing a lead-off walk from Rams starter Chris Erwin.
Jonathan White then sent a check swing that found its way though a hole up the middle and into center field for a single to bring the tying run to the plate.
Brookwood then took advantage of some defensive miscues by the Grayson infield, which reacted slowly to Garrett Reynolds' bunt, which ended up as a single, and then misplayed Brock Baughcum's RBI grounder for an error that pulled Brookwood to within 5-3 with the bases still loaded and nobody out.
Colin Cotter made the Rams pay for those mistakes by greeting the first pitch from reliever Max Yarbrough for a two-run single that tied the game at 5-5.
But the big blow came after Nick Fonseca's fielder's choice grounder resulted in the first out and Tre Lawrence drew a walk to load the bases.
That brought Castillo, who had gotten of to a very slow start to the season coming into Wednesday's game, to the plate.
But the junior shortstop came up with his biggest at-bat of the season to date, lining an 0-1 offering from Yarbrough into the gap in right-center that cleaned the bases and put the Broncos in front to stay at 8-5.
"I wanted to come up and do it for my teammates," Castillo said. "I was just looking for a fastball just to drive in the gap. We usually have a drill we do (for this situation in practice), and (Grayson's infield) was playing in on me, so I just tried to get it to the outfield."
Jordan Dykes followed with an RBI single for a valuable insurance run that made it 9-5, and Michael Ranieri (2-0) pitched around Austin Meadows' one-out single to retire Grayson in the top of the seventh to nail down the win.
Castillo's hit was his second of the day in four trips to the plate, while Moon and Cotter each added a hit and two RBIs for the Broncos on the day.
While Erwin took the loss on the mound, he did have a good day at the plate for Grayson, going 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs, while Meadows finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, Brandon Benson also went 2-for-4 and Taylor Allum drove in a run with a double.