Thursday, May 9, 2013
For the first time since 2007, a UWG team will be playing on Championship Day at a Gulf South Conference Tournament, as the West Georgia baseball team handed Valdosta State its first loss of the 2013 tourney, 5-4 on Wednesday afternoon at Cole Field.
The win marks the third victory for West Georgia at this year's tournament, moving this team into rare air in UWG history, as the team with the second-most wins at the GSC tournament. That is second to the 1998 team that eventually made a run to the NCAA Division II College World Series after going 4-1 at that year's GSC tourney.
It also moves the Wolves into the Championship Day in the Gulf South Conference tournament. West Georgia will play top-seeded Delta State at noon on Thursday, with the winner to face-off against Valdosta State in the championship game, slated to begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
Things started off rocky for the Wolves in Wednesday's game against VSU, as UWG center fielder Shaquille Jackson dropped a fly ball on the first pitch of the game. Eventually in the bottom of the first, the Blazers had runners on second and third with two outs and West Georgia starting pitcher Jamie Sexton worked out of the jam to keep the score at 0-0 after the first.
Sexton worked out of several jams on the afternoon, as Valdosta State had at least two hits in five separate innings. That included the bottom of the third, when VSU took advantage of a West Georgia error, scoring two runs in the inning and taking a 2-0 lead in the contest.
Until that point, the UWG bats had been fairly silent, but that changed in the top of the fourth as the Wolves put the first two batters in the inning on base. Later in the inning, with runners on second and third, Trey DIckson belted an RBI single, scoring both runs and tying the game at 2-2.
West Georgia took its first lead of the day in the top of the fifth with a dramatic run, beginning with a one-out double from Jackson. In the next at-bat, Jackson took off in an attempt to steal and senior Blake McLemore connected with the ball on a check swing. The ball found a path in no-man's land in-between first and second, giving McLemore a chance to beat out the throw. Jackson never stopped, rounding third and sliding ahead of the throw home to give UWG a 3-2 lead.
Another run from VSU in the sixth tied the game at 3-3, which is where it stayed until the top of the eighth, as McLemore led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch. TJ Eifert moved him to second, followed by McLemore stealing third. Evan Hester singled, bringing home McLemore, then moved to third on a single from John-Mark Rhodes. Dylan Coleman then hit a grounder to short, but legged out an attempt at a double-play from VSU, scoring Hester with an insurance run.
The run would be needed, as VSU opened the bottom of the eighth with a single and a double back-to-back, giving Sexton runners at second and third with no outs. Head coach Skip Fite brought in Max Aeschilmann, who gave up a sacrifice fly for the fourth run of the day for the Blazers, but then struck out the next batter, followed by a fly out to end the threat.
The Wolves threatened in the ninth, but couldn't push a run across. It wouldn't matter, as Aeschilmann sat down the Blazers in order in the bottom of the ninth, striking out the final batter of the day looking to give the Wolves the victory.
For Sexton, it was his 10th win of the season, moving him to 10-4 on the year, making him the first 10-game winner for UWG in the past 10 seasons. The junior worked seven innings, allowing two earned runs and four total on 12 hits, striking out four batters. Aeschilmann came on for the final two innings, allowing no runs on no hits and struck out two batters.
The Wolves had 10 hits on the day, led by Jackson and Dickson, who had three hits each. Hester was 1-for-3 with a pair of runs scored. Dickson is now 5-for-11 in this year's tournament, good for a .455 batting average. He is one of four UWG hitters with five hits (Eifert, McLemore, Jackson and Dickson) in this year's tournament.Photo Credit: Troy Jenkins