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Ariton, G.W. Long split semifinal series games; play Game 3 Thursday
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Ariton, G.W. Long split semifinal series games; play Game 3 Thursday

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ARITON – County rivals G.W. Long and Ariton will battle it out again on Thursday for a chance to compete for the Class 2A state baseball championship.

After Ariton took the opener of the Class 2A semifinal series 8-7 on Wednesday night, G.W. Long rebounded in a big way in the second game of the doubleheader with an 11-0 five-inning win.

Jackson Chancey threw a two-hitter for the Rebels in the win – the first hit being a single in the fourth inning off the bat of Jackson Baker, who was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, and the second being a single by Connor Thrash to lead off the fifth. Chancey struck out eight over five innings.

The Rebels scored eight runs in the fourth inning to put it away after struggling offensively against Ariton starting pitcher Nash Evans to that point.

G.W. Long is now 21-12, while Ariton is 24-10. The Purple Cats swept the Rebels in a doubleheader to win the area championship. Now the two rivals will battle at 5 p.m. Thursday for a chance to advance to the state championship series beginning Monday in Montgomery.

In the fourth inning of Game 2, G.W. Long sent 11 players to the plate and collected five hits – the only hits Evans gave up in the game, despite the Purple Cats falling behind 3-0 in the third inning after some defensive blunders.

In the eight-run inning, Tanner Johnston got the first hit of the game for the Rebels with an RBI single to right field to make it 4-0. A grounder to the pitcher off the bat of Mikey Vanderheyden resulted in another run when Nash’s throw home went off the catcher’s glove as Brody Walker scored from third.

After a groundout, Trevor Morris drove in two runs with a single to right field in making it 7-0. After a walk, Carson Dunlap singled to right field to drive in two more runs for a 9-0 lead.

Jackson Dasinger followed with an RBI single and Chancey got in on the fun with an RBI double to complete the scoring.

G.W. Long, the designated home team, put the first runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning without the benefit of a hit.

Johnston walked to open the inning, and after a strikeout, Hayes Horne walked. Johnston and Horne both advanced a base on a passed ball with Morris at the plate.

Morris hit a grounder to third base, but the throw was low and past the first baseman to bring in the first run.

After a walk loaded the bases, Dunlap hit a grounder to the shortstop, who threw to the second baseman for a force out, but the throw to first in trying to complete a double play pulled the first baseman off the bag and another run scored on the play to make it 2-0.

With Dasinger at the plate and runners at first and third, Dunlap took off from first and was caught in a rundown and eventually tagged out, but not before Morris came in from third to make it 3-0.

Ariton 8, G.W. Long 7: Ariton won a back-and-forth Class 2A baseball semifinal series opener against G.W. Long, taking an 8-7 victory on Wednesday night.

After G.W. Long took its first lead at 6-5 in the fourth inning, Ariton came back with three runs in the bottom half of the frame and held on for the win.

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Ariton sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning and scored five runs in grabbing the early advantage before G.W. Long responded with a grand slam in the next inning and a solo homer in the third to even it up.

The first game was delayed more than an hour because of a long stretch of mud in right field that was caused by a heavy rain downpour on Wednesday morning.

Once the area in the outfield was dried enough to safely begin play, both pitchers showed some early nerves in front of what was a huge crowd as the Dale County rivals squared off.

G.W. Long loaded the bases in the top of the first with one out by way of two walks and a batter that was hit. However, Ariton starting pitcher Paxton Steed got two huge strikeouts to get out of the inning without any damage.

G.W. Long starting pitcher Blayne McDaniel wasn’t as fortunate in the bottom of the first.

After leadoff hitter Landon Thrash was hit by a pitch, McDaniel got a fly out to second before Caden Collier reached on an error.

After Collier advanced to second on a wild pitch to put runners and second and third, Landon Tyler ripped a double into left field for the first two runs of the game.

Phenix Griffin then singled to center field and Jay Cook walked to load the bases with one out. Tyler and Griffin would then score when a pitch got past the catcher with Steed at the plate, and the throw back to the pitcher trying to get Griffin would also go wild, allowing Cook to score and make it 4-0.

After Steed struck out for the second out of the inning, Nash Evans singled to put runners at first and third with two out.

Lawson Leger then sent a soft liner into right field to plate Cook and give the Purple Cats a 5-0 lead.

G.W. Long responded with a vengeance in the top of the second.

After two were out, two straight walks loaded the bases for Carson Dunlap, who got hold of a pitch and deposited it just over the right field fence for a grand slam in cutting the lead to 5-4. Ironically, Dunlap is the brother of Ariton coach Logan Dunlap.

G.W. Long evened it up in the third inning when Tanner Johnston blasted a two-out solo homer over the fence in left-center field to make it a 5-5 game.

The Rebels took the lead in the fourth. With runners at second and third and two outs, Jackson Chancey sent a grounder to third that was cleanly fielded, but the throw was low to first and just off the glove of the first baseman as McDaniel came in to score in giving G.W. Long its first lead at 6-5.

Ariton tied it back up in the bottom of the fourth when Landon Tyler doubled to deep center field to score Jackson Baker, who had singled.

Brody Walker was then inserted as the pitcher and Griffin greeted him with a sacrifice fly to center field on a line out to bring in a run, making it 7-6. Cook then reached on an infield hit on a slow grounder up the middle and Tyler scored on the play to make it 8-6.

G.W. Long got a solo home run from Jackson Dasinger over the left field fence in the sixth to cut the lead to one.

Thrash, who entered in relief on the mound with two outs in the fifth inning, finished off the game for the save.

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