LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – The No. 2-ranked Georgia Gwinnett College baseball team plated seven runs in an inning with two outs and got strong pitching performances in each contest Friday afternoon for a pair of opening day victories at the Grizzly Baseball Complex.
The Grizzlies defeated Rust College (Mississippi) 14-1 before scoring a 12-0 triumph against Midway University (Kentucky).
GGC pushed seven runs across in the opening frame of the first contest of the day. Junior Henry Daniels lined a single to left-center field to open the scoring. Classmate Paul Winland Jr. followed with a two-run triple to the same place in the outfield. Senior Blaze O’Saben then sped around the basepaths for a triple to drive in the fourth run of the inning. The final two runs of the frame came when junior Cohen Wilbanks added an RBI double to left field and junior Joe Quelch followed with a run-scoring double off the left field wall.
Then, in the nightcap, the Grizzlies scored seven times in the bottom of the second inning to set a positive tone against Midway. A balk followed by back-to-back hit by pitches with the bases loaded brought home the first three runs, all with two outs in the inning. Junior Bryce Lesher cleared the bases with a single to right-center field for a 6-0 lead. Junior Jackson Cobb added an RBI single later in the early frame.
“As long as we have an out, we have a chance (in an inning). These guys stayed within themselves and didn’t try to make things happen,” said Head Coach Jeremy Sheetinger.
Quelch connected on a towering three-run home run over the center field fence in the nightcap.
The Grizzlies (2-0) also benefitted from dominant pitching, surrendering just three hits and recording 29 strikeouts across 14 innings for the opening day of the season. Senior Tyler Clayton matched a career high with 10 strikeouts across five strong innings in the opener.
“It meant everything to get the ball on opening day of my last season here. I worked hard (in the preseason) for this opportunity,” said Clayton, a member of the Grizzlies’ pitching staff for five seasons, including the 2021 NAIA national championship team.
Fellow senior Gage Williams allowed just one hit and had 12 strikeouts to pick up the win against Midway.
“This pitching staff pushes each other every day to work hard. Guys want more out of each other. I was able to locate my fastball on both sides of the plate,” stated Williams, who was a reliever on GGC’s national championship squad.
O’Saben paced the team’s offensive attack by tallying five hits and scoring four runs. Winland Jr. went 3-for-3 with three RBI and a pair of runs scored against Rust. He added a run-scoring single against Midway. Cobb recorded a pair of hits in the nightcap.
“I stayed within myself at the plate and had the confidence to stay within the moment and swinging at pitches that I wanted to hit. I knew what the situation dictated and it allowed me to have success,” said Winland Jr.
“It was a perfect way for Tyler (Clayton and Gage (Williams) to kick off their super senior (fifth-year) seasons to get those guys starts on opening day. They set the tone not only for the day but for our pitching staff this season. Our offensive approach with two outs is a staple of our offense,” said Head Coach Jeremy Sheetinger.
The Grizzlies pushed across seven runs in an inning – all with two outs – during each contest on Friday. The team tallied seven runs in the bottom of first inning against Rust in the opener. Then, the hosts registered seven runs in the second inning to pull away early against Midway.
GGC is 2-0 after opening the 2024 season on Friday; Rust stands 0-2 this spring; Midway is 1-1 after beginning the season. The Grizzlies were ranked No. 2 in the NAIA Preseason Top 25 poll; Midway received votes in the same poll; both teams played in last year’s NAIA Opening Round Lawrenceville Bracket.
The team is 8-4 all-time in season openers, winning the last three games. Friday marked the first meeting with Rust; GGC has won all five meetings against Midway.
Georgia Gwinnett College is scheduled to play both teams again on Saturday, February 3, at the Grizzly Baseball Complex. First will be a game against Midway University (Kentucky) at 2 p.m., followed by hosting Rust College (Mississippi) at 5 p.m.