Most young players would have held their heads or thrown their gloves in anger.
But West Laurens head coach Brian Brown knew his team would have a different reaction. Brown knew his team would simply respond. After giving up two leads, including a game-tying home run in the bottom of the seventh, West Laurens rose to the occasion and regained the lead for good in extra innings to upend Jones County 6-5 on Tuesday.
“I can’t say enough about our team,” Brown said. “I doesn’t matter if we’re winning or losing, our attitude is always the same, and that says a lot about a young team. This was a great win for us.”
Sparked by a leadoff walk to start the first inning, West Laurens needed little time to get on the scoreboard. Staying patient at the plate, the Raiders got consecutive two-out hits — including a two-run home run by Eason Spivey — to take an early 3-0 advantage.
“Getting that early lead for us was huge,” Brown said. “Going against a team like Jones County that has so much firepower, you have to get that lead.”
Despite falling behind 3-0, the Greyhounds needed only one swing to slice into the Raiders’ advantage.
Looking for his pitch, leadoff hitter Terrance Gore cranked the ball over the left-center field wall to get Jones County on the scoreboard.
It was Gore’s second home run in as many days.
“We still had the lead, but I told my team we may have to score 10 runs to win this one,” Brown said. “No lead is safe with the wind blowing out the way it was.”
After battling his way through the first inning, Jones County’s starting pitcher Dylan Dupree began hitting his spots.
Striking out four in the ensuing three innings, Dupree gave up just one hit and refused to allow West Laurens to increase its lead.
“I thought our pitchers pitched well,” Jones County head coach Barry Veal said. “We didn’t have many fresh arms, and I thought they did a good job.”
Ignited by the play of Dupree, the Greyhounds’ offense rallied in the third to tie the game at 3 and then tacked on another run in the fourth to take a 4-3 lead.
Zack Blount had the key two-out double for Jones County that scored two.
“When they came back to take the lead, I wasn’t surprised at all,” Brown said. “That’s what I expect out of Jones County. They are a great team.”
But the Greyhounds lead was short-lived.
After getting ahead in the count, center fielder A.J. Wright pounded a fastball to straight away center to put the Raiders back on top.
“A.J. is athletic enough that if he’s looking for a pitch, and he gets it, he’s probably not going to miss it,” Brown said. “He was sitting on a fastball, and he crushed it.”
Although Jones County had chances to tie the score in the fifth and sixth, Raiders relief pitcher Dylan Gay pitched flawlessly until the seventh.
Electing to pitch to Jones County star Tyler Roberts, Gay left a pitch over the middle, and Roberts didn’t miss.
“That was a big hit for us,” Veal said. “It’s kind of unfair to Tyler, but I have just come to expect that out of him.”
But just like earlier in the game, West Laurens needed only one inning to retake command.
Loading the bases in the eighth, the Raiders’ Tate King grounded into a fielder’s choice, which scored the game-winning run.
“To be able to win on the road against a team with so much tradition means a lot,” Brown said. “We just need to keep this momentum going into the playoffs.”