SAVANNAH - The personalities of the Savannah Christian and Swainsboro baseball teams stayed intact for another 24 hours Friday afternoon.
The Red Raiders start fast but can't stand prosperity. The Tigers lag behind but refuse to stop fighting.
With those contrasts in conflict at Savannah Christian in the Class AAA semifinals, it's no doubt a Game 3 is a necessity at 2 p.m. today to finish off a classic best-of-three battle. Savannah Christian won the first game 7-1, but Swainsboro rallied to win the nightcap 9-2 and earn the split.
"If you got a scouting report on the Tigers, it would say they're going to boot it around in the first game," said Swainsboro coach Hank Aldridge, whose team committed four errors in the opener.
The flip side of that scouting report says a wounded Tiger is very dangerous. Three times during these playoffs, Swainsboro has lost the first game of the three-game series but has done a 180-degree turn in the second game.
And the first two times the Tigers were faced with Game 3, they won to advance.
"I guess we have to have our backs on the wall before we play better," said Swainsboro left-hander Paul Terwilliger.
The Tigers (26-9) played as if they were in a haze, losing the first game amid the smoke of a fire that blew in from Florida. They managed just one hit through the first four innings against Savannah Christian right-hander Adam Kitchen while falling behind 2-1 in the nightcap . But in the fifth, Swainsboro manufactured a run on a walk, a stolen base, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
Then Jesse Anderson slugged a towering fly ball that took a ride in a breeze. Left fielder Robert Cole thought he had it, but the ball kept drifting until it cleared fence.
The Tigers added six runs in the sixth and were assured a return trip to Savannah.
"We just had confidence in ourselves," said Anderson, who hit another homer in the sixth inning and finished with three runs batted in.
"We knew two runs weren't going to beat us," Terwilliger said. "All it took was one bat to spark us."
Two runs could have beaten Swainsboro in the first game the way Cole pitched for Savannah Christian. The junior left-hander scattered four hits and struck out seven in getting a complete-game victory.
Cole helped himself with a two-run single in the first inning. A Tigers throwing error on the play added a third run.
And when Swainsboro cut the lead to 3-1 in the fifth inning, the Raiders (23-7) answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
"It was good to come out and play well in that first game, but we've had trouble putting teams away," Cole said.
Savannah Christian won the opening games of best-of-three series against Dublin and Lovett before losing the second game in each of those series.
Both times, however, senior left-hander Brad Mathews (9-1) saved the Raiders with victories in the deciding third games.
"Swainsboro is a tough team; you can't sit back against them," Raiders coach Carl Carter said. "That's happened to us before. ... We feel confident with Brad (today)."
The Tigers are also a confident bunch. Right-hander Ashley Hooks (10-1) hasn't pitched yet, and Terwilliger, the team's good-luck charm, could come back without any rest. The senior pitched back-to-back games while beating Perry twice.
"I have a lot of good-luck charms left," Aldridge said.
Game 1Christian Savannah Christian 7, Swainsboro 1
Swainsboro000 010 0-1 4 3
Savannah Christian300 040 0-7 8 0
Ramon Alford (L, 7-6), Clay Price (5) and Rhett Womack; Robert Cola (W, 9-2) and Luke Dorman. Leading Hitters: Savannah Christian-Andrew Brannon 2-3, 3 RBI, Brad Mathews 2-3, RBI.
Game 2 Swainsboro 9, Savannah Christian 2
Savannah Christian 011 000 0-2 8 0
Swainsboro 001 026 x-9 5 2
Adam Kitchens (L, 7-3), Jim McGowen (6) and Luke Dorman; Paul Terwilliger (W, 9-2) and Rhett Womack. HR-Swainsboro-Jesse Anderson 2. 2B-Savannah Christian-Brad Mullis; Swainsboro-Ashley Hooks. Leading Hitters: Savannah Christian-Kitchens 2-2, RBI; Swainsboro-Hooks 2-3, RBI, Anderson 2-2, 3 RBI. Records: Swainsboro 26-9. Next: The teams meet today at 2 p.m. at Savannah Christian.