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GGC Headed to World Series After Winning Lawrenceville Bracket
May 15, 2014
The Georgia Gwinnett baseball team punched its ticket to the 2014 Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series on Thursday evening, capping an improbable run of four straight elimination-game wins over three days with a pair of victories over Southeastern (Fla.) at the Grizzly Baseball Complex to capture the Lawrenceville Bracket of the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round.
The Grizzlies (52-11) now advance to Lewiston, Idaho, where the nation’s final 10 teams meet to decide a national champion May 23-30. The bracket will be announced by the NAIA Friday, May 16.
The nation’s highest scoring team throughout much of the regular season, the Grizzlies scored 41 runs over the final four games with their backs against the wall to win the Lawrenceville Bracket, needing to defeat previously unbeaten Southeastern twice on Thursday.
In the conclusion of Game 8, which had started Wednesday but was postponed due to rain, GGC rushed past the Fire for a 14-5 win to force the winner-take-all contest.
In the Game 9 finale, the Grizzlies built a 4-0 lead and withstood a late charge from SEU for a 7-4 win to claim their first-ever trip to the Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series.
“This is an unbelievable feeling for this program and these players who have poured their heart and soul into this season,” said Grizzlies head coach Brad Stromdahl. “This group of guys never gave up and never stopped believing that we would emerge victorious from our bracket. This was absolutely a total team effort and we are so proud to be able to represent Georgia Gwinnett College in Idaho at the World Series.”
Senior Phillip Bates finished the final two games 8-for-10 with five runs scored and four RBIs. Robbie Payne added five hits for GGC and Sloan Strickland had four as the Grizzlies belted 33 hits between the two games.
Game 8- Georgia Gwinnett 14, Southeastern 5 (Completed Thursday)
The Grizzlies and Fire first resumed Game 8 Thursday, which had been suspended in the fourth inning a day earlier due to inclement weather, with GGC needing to rally simply to force a Game 9.
When play resumed, the Grizzlies were batting down 5-3 in the fourth inning with runners on first and third base. The first batter, Phillip Bates, drove the very first pitch through the left side for a single to score runner Christian Van Camp from third base. The play would be the last score in a three-run inning for the Grizzlies that had started the day earlier to bring GGC within one at 5-4.
In the top of the next inning, senior Tyler Carpenter took over on the mound, and retired the first three Fire batters with a pair of strikeouts.
Neither team scored in the fifth or sixth innings.
In the seventh, Jake Fields led off with a double past the third baseman down the left field line. Robbie Payne followed with a bunt single to the right side and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Ty Abbott into center field tied the game, 5-5.
The Fire got a leadoff double in the top of the eighth and moved the runner to third base with one out, but Alex Roberts entered in relief of Carpenter and stranded the runner at third with a strikeout and a flyout.
The Grizzlies then took over with a nine-run bottom of the eighth on offense.
Zach Alvord led off the eighth with an infield single and quickly stole second base. Christian Van Camp followed with a walk, then Jereid Woods put a bunt perfectly down the third base line for a single to load the bases with no outs. John Fidanza then dropped a single into left field, which plated the go-ahead runs at 7-5. Bates followed with a double down the third base line two score two more for the Grizzlies and then scored when Fields added a single to right field. Strickland made it 11-5 with a single later in the inning to score pinch runner Kyle Norton. Alvord added two more runs as he blasted a double to left-center, and the final run of the inning came home on a wild pitch as GGC took a commanding 14-5 lead.
Southeastern failed to score in the ninth and Roberts (8-2), who would turn around to start Game 9 less than an hour later, earned the win for the Grizzlies.
The victory ended an 11-game winning streak for The Sun Conference champions of Southeastern as Josh Egert (1-1) took the loss.
Game 9- Georgia Gwinnett 7, Southeastern 4
With the Lawrenceville Bracket title on the line, the Grizzlies picked up right where they left off from the previous game, scoring in the opening inning as the designated visiting team. Phillip Bates singled and later scored on an infield throwing error to first base as GGC took a 1-0 lead.
In the third inning, Bates launched a leadoff double to deep center. Fields moved the runner to third base and Payne knocked Bates in with a single into right field.
Christian Van Camp delivered an RBI single into center as GGC added to its lead in the fourth with Sloan Strickland scoring from second base. Van Camp then reached third and Fidanza drove him in with a single to center for a 4-0 Grizzlies advantage.
The Fire got on the board in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single from Andres Cancio to make it 4-1. The run ended a string of 17 straight Grizzly runs in the series over two days.
Starter Alex Roberts, who also appeared in Thursday’s earlier win, went 4.0 innings with four strikeouts and allowed just one run in getting the start.
Reliever Brandon MacKinnon entered in the fifth inning and worked out of a jam to keep the three-run GGC lead.
With runners on the corners in the sixth, the Fire pushed a run across on a ground ball to second base to draw within two runs. Later in the inning, Aaron Sheaks’ RBI double down the right field line scored another run to make it 4-3, but it was as close as SEU would come.
Reliever Jonathan Spitler (5-0) set the fire down in order in the seventh with a pair of strikeouts to send GGC back up to the plate in the eighth, where the Grizzlies tacked on three insurance runs against Southeastern fireballer Tyler Murphy.
With two outs and a pinch runner on first base, Bates drilled a triple to the gap in right-center to score Garitt Church. Fields followed with a triple of his own over the right fielder’s head to score another run and make it 6-3, GGC. After a dropped third strike, Robbie Payne reached on a throwing error and GGC scored once more with Fields coming home from third for a 7-3 lead.
Murphy had given up just two earned runs in 27 previous appearances on the year.
Zeke McGranahan then entered in the bottom of the eighth inning for the Grizzlies and would go the rest of the way.
After a scoreless eighth, the Fire scored once in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. Southeastern loaded the bases and brought the go-ahead run to the plate, but McGranahan struck out Aldo Ferrante, who had three hits in the game, to end the game and set off a celebration in the infield.
The Grizzlies finished with six extra-base hits in the game, including three triples.
Southeastern (46-14) starter Clay Rideout (2-1) suffered the loss.