The fight is on in Region 3-AAAA baseball.
The Ware County Gators rallied in the seventh and eighth innings and handed the Effingham County Rebels their first loss in region play this year with an 8-7 victory Friday night.
With the win, the Gators improved to 3-1 in the region and the Rebels fell into a tie for second with Wayne County at 2-1.
“We don’t try to get too high when we win, and we try not to get too upset when we lose,” Rebels coach Brett Griffin said. “As strong as this region is, you’ve got to take it one game at a time.”
The Gators (7-5 overall) put together back-to-back two-out hits in the top of the eighth off reliever D.J. Collins, after the Rebels stormed back in the seventh to force extra innings.
“I thought our guys did a good job of coming back and giving themselves a chance to win,” Griffin said.
In the seventh, Gators starter Cecil Tanner walked leadoff hitter Justin Wilson and was relieved by Jed Thigpen. With two out and two on, Zach Dotson lined a shot to right center that scored Wilson and Dylan Scott.
Justin Rogers walked on a high 3-2 pitch, and Gators coach James Conoly was ejected. Thigpen got out of the inning with a fly out to deep left-center field.
“There were a lot of influential plays that could have gone either way,” Griffin said, “and a lot of them did go our way.”
The Rebels led 4-0 after two innings. In the first, Josh Moreland got a one-out single, Dotson walked and Tanner’s error led to two runs.
Tanner hit Jonathan Rotureau and Wilson to start the second, and Garrett Arnsdorff and Moreland each singled. But Tanner got a strikeout with the bases loaded to get out of the inning, that included two Rebels getting thrown out on the bases.
Dotson held the Gators for the first three innings, getting some help with a comebacker he turned into an inning-ending double play and getting Thigpen hung up between home and third.
Two errors and a sacrifice fly helped the Gators cut the gap to 4-3 in the fourth. After the Gators went ahead 5-4 in the sixth, the Rebels tied it up again in their half of the inning on Daniel Farmer’s single.
Ware answered with two in the seventh, and Dotson helped keep the Gators within two by throwing out a runner at the plate after he moved to left field.
The Gators finished with 10 hits and were aided by four Rebels errors. Effingham (8-5) had eight hits, with Moreland finishing with two.
“They did a good job of putting balls in play and getting good at-bats,” Griffin said of Ware’s hitters.
Griffin was hospitalized on Tuesday and released on Friday in time for the game.
Benedictine 13, Effingham County 12
Wilson, Evan Jarman and Matt Rahn homered, but the Cadets pushed across a run in the bottom of the seventh.
Rahn went 3-for-4 in the loss as the Rebels pounded out 14 hits. Dotson was 2-for-2 and Arnsdorff went 2-for-3.
The Cadets rallied for seven runs in the second to take a 10-5 lead, but the Rebels forced them to bat in the home half of the seventh with a five-spot in the top of the inning to tie the game.
The Rebels will host Glynn Academy in a Region 3-AAAA game Tuesday at 6.