ATLANTA - Like most teams before the baseball season started, Wesleyan made one of its goals to win the state championship. After sweeping Holy Innocents' in the semifinals on Monday that goal is two wins away from being a reality.
Wesleyan defeated the Golden Bears 15-11 in Game 1 and then won 9-4 in Game 2 to reach the state finals for the first time in the school's 10-year history. Wesleyan will face the winner of the Buford-Lovett game in the state championship on Friday in a doubleheader.
"It's unbelievable," said Wesleyan coach Mike Shaheen, whose team has won 15 of its last 16 games. "At the beginning of the year we set goals and of course one of them was a state title. I knew we could be good this year. We have five great seniors."
Wesleyan (29-6) improves to 8-1 in the playoffs, where it has outscored its opponents 72-34. The Wolves are now 16-4 on the road this year. It is the third time this season Holy Innocents' (26-8) has lost to Wesleyan. The Wolves beat them in the season opener 15-1.
"It's awesome," Tony Plagman said. "It doesn't get any better than this except to win it next week. We talked about winning a state championship and knew it was one of our main goals this year."
Wesleyan got on the scoreboard in the first inning in Game 2. Connor Winn led off with a walk and then stole second. Two batters later, Tony Plagman (2-for-4) hit a pop fly to center field to score Winn from third.
Holy Innocents' came back in the third to take its only lead of the game. Bentley Heyman reached on a fielder's choice, Daniel Blaustein got a base hit and two batters later Bert Olsen hit a three-run home run off Adam Johnson (8-1) to make it a 3-1 game.
The Wolves responded in the bottom half of the third. Ty Johnson got a base hit, Winn walked and James Ramsey (2-for-4) hit a three-run blast to left field to give Wesleyan a 4-3 advantage.
Wesleyan added two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to take control of the game. Grayson Garvin hit a pinch-hit two run homer in the seventh to give Wesleyan a 8-4 lead. Winn followed with a single and scored three batters later on a sacrifice fly.
Johnson went six innings, allowing five hits and striking out five to pick up the win.
Game 1 took nearly three hours to finish, with runs scored every inning except the seventh. There were 25 hits in the game as Wesleyan came away with the 15-11 victory.
Wesleyan took a commanding 8-2 lead going into the bottom of the fourth before Holy Innocents' started its biggest rally. Wesleyan starting pitcher Garvin gave up solo home runs to Blake Snodgrass and Fletcher Hawkins. Garvin then hit the next batter, gave up a base hit and walked the third batter to load the bases for Joey Vitale (3-for-4, 2 home runs). The senior tied the game with one swing, hitting a grand slam over the left field wall to make it an 8-8 game. Garvin gave up another hit before the sophomore was able to finally get the final out of the inning.
"I talked to him about that after the game," Shaheen said. "If we're in a different ball park, you don't know how it would have been. He did fine."
Garvin was done after the disastrous inning, giving up seven hits and seven earned runs while striking out four and walking one.
The Bears didn't stay tied with Wesleyan for long. The Wolves came back with a six-run inning of their own in the top of the fifth.
Rick Anderson got a base hit, Garvin reached on an error and Alex Bayer (3-for-4, three RBIs, three runs scored) doubled to score Anderson. Ty Johnson hit a double to bring in two more runs and Winn (3-for-5, three RBIs) followed with a double drive in the fourth consecutive run. Three batters later, Kevin Ruiz (3-for-5) singled to drive in a run and Chris Jensen laid down a squeeze bunt to bring in the sixth run of the inning for Wesleyan, and the Wolves held a 14-8 advantage.
Ruiz pitched the final three innings to pick up the save. The sophomore gave up one run off three hits and struck out three.
The only run Ruiz allowed was in the sixth when Vitale hit a solo home run to collect his seventh RBI of the game.
Plagman and Ruiz hit back-to-back homers in the third to give Wesleyan a 6-2 lead. It was Plagman's eighth homer of the year and Ruiz's ninth.