CONYERS - The Heritage baseball team never gave up against Loganville on Friday night at Danny Blue Field.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, the Red Devils didn't give up, either.
Loganville (20-3 overall, 18-3 in 8-AAAA) scored twice in the top of the eighth and held on for a 9-7 victory, denying the Patriots (20-4 overall, 20-2 in 8-AAAA) a chance to clinch their fourth straight region title.
Heritage must now win one of its final two regular season games - Monday at Eastside or Wednesday at Rockdale - to clinch the 8-AAAA championship and a No. 1 seed in the upcoming Class AAAA state playoffs.
"There were a lot things, especially in a game that long, that we could have done differently that would have won the game," Heritage coach Casey Teal. "But we didn't do them, and they did. Hats off to them, they're going to be a tough team in the playoffs."
The Patriots played from behind all evening, trailing 2-0 and 7-2, but each time they battled back to tie the game.
Loganville took advantage of two Heritage errors in the top of the second to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
But the Patriots tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, scoring two runs on a single passed ball.
In the sixth, Loganville's Jacob Johnson led off with a solo home to left field, putting the Red Devils in front again. Luke Baker followed with a bases-clearing double for a 6-2 advantage. Baker scored later after two Heritage throwing errors, extending Loganville's lead to 7-2.
But Heritage came roaring back in the bottom of the sixth.
With one out, Joseph Lester and Brandon Thomas worked back-to-back walks. Ryan Cochran followed with a three-run homer to left-center field, cutting Loganville's lead to 7-5.
Heritage's Nick Matteen should have been the second out of the inning, but he reached first after a wild pitch on strike three. Tyler Austin followed with a hard single to left, and both runners move up a base on a wild pitch.
Travis Tarleton delivered a clutch two-run single to tie the game again, this time at 7.
"Our players showed a lot of heart and character tonight. We've lost two in a row, but I wouldn't trade this team for any team in the state," Teal said. "We could have folded (in the sixth inning). Loganville did a great job and scored five (runs), and then we put a five-spot up right after them. We never quit, and that's what I like about this team. It's tough to come back like that on any team, but especially a team of Loganville's caliber."
The Red Devils took advantage of three Heritage mistakes to plate the go-ahead runs in the of the eighth.
In the bottom of the frame, Heritage's Austin and Tarleton gave the Patriots life with back-to-back one-out singles.
But Chunk Smith's blooper to right field was run down by the Loganville second baseman, and then Ryan Jubran struck out to end the contest.
In fact, Loganville's victory was also bad news for another Rockdale County squad - Salem. The Seminoles needed a Heritage victory Friday night and two wins in their games next week to edge Loganville in a tie breaker for second place.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.