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South rallies to split series with Walton

MARIETTA -- South Gwinnett managed to stay alive in its Class AAAAAA state tournament opening round series against Walton despite getting just three hits.

After Walton dominated the opener Friday with a 10-3 victory and taking an early six-run lead in the nightcap, the Raiders started having issues locating their pitches. They gave up eight walks and hit three batters after the second inning, allowing the Comets to come back and win 7-6 at Raider Mountain.

The third game between the teams will be played at 3 p.m. at Walton.

"This win is huge. If you don't win, you go home," South Gwinnett coach Steve Teschner said. "Unfortunately, they struggled with their command when we struggled with ours early."

The first couple of innings of Game 2 couldn't have gone any better for the Raiders.

They pounced on South Gwinnett ace Ryan Patterson in the first inning, scoring three runs on five hits. They also abused him in the third with an additional three runs on four hits. Tyler Heinrichs capped the scoring in the third with a two-run single to give Walton its 6-0 lead.

And Henrichs' hit ended up being the last one Patterson would allow.

About the same time Patterson settled down to take control of Walton's bats, Walton starter Will White started getting erratic after cruising through the first two frames.

That's when Walton's pitching troubles began.

"We didn't throw strikes," Walton coach Shane Amos said. "We gave them too many freebies. We let them hang around and we have to do a better job at

White walked the first two batters and hit Mitchell Davis to load the bases with no outs. Then Chad Smith followed with an RBI hit to put South Gwinnett on the board, one of only two RBIs in the game by the Comets. White seemed to get back on track when he struck out Drew McCarthy for the first out, but would go on to walk Montrell Marshall and hit Patterson to cut Walton's lead in half.

That was when Caleb Bohan stepped in for White, and Bohan ended up being Walton's sharpest pitcher in the second game. He gave up just one run on two hits, one being a Marshall solo home run in the fifth.

As South Gwinnett was inching its way back into the game, Patterson was doing quick work against the Raiders. He faced the minimum in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. He finished the game for the Comets, throwing more than 100 pitches and had five strikeouts with four of them coming in the sixth and seventh.

"(Patterson's) a senior and has been our No. 1 all year," Teschner said. "He only has one loss this year and was able to battle back after a couple of rough innings."

After the Raiders got their first and only out in the bottom of the seventh inning, trying to preserve a two-run lead, their pitching really began to fall apart. Reliever Daniel Parker hit Smith and would go on to walk McCarthy and Marshall to load the bases. Then Ben Milley took over when Marshall was at the plate with a 1-0 count and threw seven straight balls, allowing Smith to score.

After Harrison Veldsma replaced Milley, Walton's only error of the series ended up being its undoing. Mason Hart grounded to Bradley Schwartz at third base and Schwartz missed his throw at the plate, allowing McCarthy to score and tie it and Marshall to score and win it.

"We got to have short memories and just shake it off," Amos said. "It is what it is. The only thing we can do now is to do something about it (today)."

Walton jumped on South Gwinnett early in the first game as well, scoring four runs in the first inning and three more in the second. Aaron Rzucidlo was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs for Walton.

The Raiders also got hit five times by South Gwinnett pitching.

All of South Gwinnett's runs in the first game came on solo home runs. Smith hit one in the third and Marshall and Hart hit back-to-back homers in the fourth.