LAWRENCEVILLE – The Georgia Gwinnett College baseball team was aggressive in the batter’s box, on the base paths, and on the pitching mound to open play in the NAIA Opening Round Lawrenceville Bracket with a convincing 14-8 victory against William Carey University (Mississippi) on Monday, May 16, at the Grizzly Baseball Complex.
The Grizzlies (43-14) put runs on the scoreboard in seven of their eight innings, collected a season-high 19 hits, stole four bases, and got a strong pitching performance from starter Gavin Heltemes in winning the team’s ninth straight game in NAIA postseason play.
“We wanted to be aggressive in everything we did against a very good William Carey team (coming in with a 14-game winning streak). The players did a great job of executing that game plan,” said GGC Head Coach Jeremy Sheetinger, whose team has won its Opening Round opener for the second straight season. “We’ve put ourselves in good position, but we’re going to have to play with the same intensity and commitment to every detail in the future. The challenges will get even more intense as we move throughout the tournament.”
Eight of GGC’s nine starting players in the batting order produced a hit while six had multiple-hit performances to produce a 13-1 lead in the first seven innings. The last four hitters in the lineup were especially effective, with No. 7-place hitter Myles McKisic going 4-for-5, with a home run and three singles; No. 8 hitter Joshua Holt Jr. being 3-for-5, with a triple; and No. 9 hitter Blaze O’Saben having three hits and three runs batted in.
Not to be outdone, leadoff hitter Braxton Meguiar also had three hits, Livington Morris had two hits, including a home run and a double, and two walks, and No. 6 hitter J.D. Stubbs also had two hits, with one being a double that led off a productive inning.
Meanwhile, Heltemes matched his teammates’ performance with a strong opening game. He allowed only two earned runs, six hits and struck out five opposing batters across 7.2 innings to improve his record to 7-1 for the season.
“Gavin had the right pitch in the right situations today to keep a productive (opposing) lineup off balance for most of the day. He could locate his fastball, which usually put him ahead of most hitters, and then change speeds effectively. It was a masterful pitching performance,” said Sheetinger. “Gavin gave us just what we needed from an opening-tournament starter: seven of more solid innings. We’re now set up well for the rest of the way.”
William Carey (37-16) scored seven runs in the final two innings. Patrick Lee was 4-for-5, with a two-run home run, while the rest of the Crusaders’ seven hits were evenly scattered throughout the lineup. Jake Lycette had a solo home run in the second inning.
“This was another all-around team effort. We clicked offensively, made key plays defensively and shined on the mound (pitching). I liked our positive mindset,” Sheetinger said. “We had a game plan to be aggressive and we executed that to near perfection. It’s going to take the same effort for the next three days to win this tournament.”
The bottom four hitters in the Grizzlies’ batting lineup produced 15 of the team’s 19 hits, with Myles McKisic leading the way by collecting four hits in five plate appearances, including a home run. Joshua Holt Jr. was 3-for-5, with a triple; and Blaze O’Saben was 3-for-4, with three RBI. Senior J.D. Stubbs collected two hits in the victory.
GGC improves to 43-14 on the season; William Carey falls to 37-15.
Georgia Gwinnett College is scheduled to play in a winner’s bracket round game on Tuesday, May 17, at the Grizzly Baseball Complex, starting at 7 p.m.