LAWRENCEVILLE — Down 6-1 headed for the bottom of the third inning, Grayson head coach Bill Batchelor reminded his players there was plenty of time left for a comeback.
The Rams answered with four runs that inning and completed an improbable comeback with a three-run sixth inning to win their first region title in nearly a decade Wednesday.
Grayson cruised behind the pitching of junior Conner Batchelor in Game 1 of the 8-AAAAAAA final series, beating defending champ Archer 9-1.
The Tigers pounced on Batchelor to start Game 2, carving out a 6-0 lead in the first inning. But Grayson, which lost twice to Archer in the regular season, rallied for a 9-6 victory and its first region crown since 2007.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Bill Batchelor said. “I asked them to stay calm and even-keeled and they just battled.
“We lost that same way to them (in the regular season) so I’m really proud of the kids, in that second game, to bounce back and fight.”
The Tigers led off Game 2 with a walk and just kept rolling from there. Terrica Williams went yard on the first pitch she saw for a 3-0 lead and Kinley Stewart launched a three-run bomb to double the margin.
That spelled the end of Conner Batchelor’s night and Katlyn Smith came in in relief.
“Conner walked two in the first inning (of Game 1) and after that she settled down and threw great,” Bill said. “So, I have all the confidence in the world in Katlyn, but if you’ve got somebody who just threw a four-hitter, you roll them back out there.
“To their credit, they did a nice job on the adjustment. But Katlyn came in and just shut ‘em down. And that’s a tough team to shut down.”
Smith took the Tigers down in order, including a pair of strikeouts, to end the inning. The senior faced only two more than the minimum over the next five innings, giving her team a chance to dig out of the early hole.
“We played four times and every one of the games has been like this,” Archer head coach Erik Stoker said. “We came from behind the last two and then they did in these two. The ones that counted. The thing is, we didn’t have any errors the first two games and then tonight we had about eight. That’s where it hurts you.”
Brinaya Bailey batted in Grayson’s first three runs, one in the bottom of the first and then two more in the third on a knock to right field. Kelly Bostwick followed that by hammering a home run way out of the park, plating Bailey in the process and getting the Rams within 6-5.
Archer held its slim lead for the fourth and fifth innings before Maya Figueroa sparked the final surge with a lead-off single looped into shallow left field in the sixth.
Madelyn Goodman worked a four-pitch walk and Aaliyah White dropped a perfect bunt to load the bases.
Allie Head ripped a shot through the infield which scored Figueroa easily and Goodman hopped over the tag at home for the go-ahead run. Grayson tacked on two more runs before it was done, but the Rams already had what they needed for the title.
“It’s exciting stuff,” Bill said. “That’s pretty awesome for our kids. (The Tigers) are great competitors and I wish them the best.”
Both teams are headed to the state tournament. Top-seeded Grayson will play Mountain View, the No. 4 seed out of Region 6-AAAAAAA, and Archer gets Collins Hill in the first-round best-of-three series.