NORCROSS - Grayson Garvin may get credit for the win, but Wesleyan's starting pitcher really saved the game.
After the Wolves rallied in the top of the seventh inning to take an 8-5 lead over Greater Atlanta Christian, Wesleyan coach Mike Shaheen replaced Garvin with Andrew Donovan. After the first three GAC runners reached base, Shaheen re-entered Garvin on the mound and the junior sandwiched a pair of walks with two strikeouts to give Wesleyan (5-3-1, 1-0 Region 6-AA) the 8-7 win.
"I felt like in that last inning, I felt the best arm-wise," said Garvin who ended the game having pitched 62⁄3 innings, giving up seven hits and striking out nine. "We came in here and we wanted to win. This is a heated rivalry in every sport. To beat them is a good thing."
It looked good early for the Wolves who jumped out on GAC (6-4, 2-1) early in the first inning. After a leadoff single by Greg Gossett, Connor Winn blasted Spartans' pitcher Taylor Wood's second pitch off the left-center field scoreboard for a two-run home run and a 2-0 Wolves lead.
But GAC struck back hard making Garvin pay for every mistake he made in the bottom of the second. After Garvin hit Justin Earnest, he squandered an 0-2 count and walked Lee Chapple. Andrew Steckenrider followed, blowing the first pitch over the right field fence for a three-run, go-ahead homer. Ian Graham followed with a walk, and later scored, to give GAC a 4-2 lead, on a Colton Chapple sacrifice fly after he advanced on a single and a wild pitch.
The Spartans added to their lead in the bottom of the third when Patrick Savage scored after leading off the inning with a bloop double to right.
But that is when Shaheen made a quick trip to the mound to talk to his starter and that settled Garvin down as he went on to retire 14 of the next 16 batters he faced.
"I was going out there to give him a break. To tell him. ... I don't know," Shaheen said. "I just wanted to give him a second. Believe me I do more bad than good. I just need to let them play the game."
With Garvin controlling the game on the mound the Wolves' offense had time to make a comeback.
And it started in the fifth inning when Ben Tucker doubled up the middle, scoring Winn and James Ramsey to cut Wesleyan's deficit to 5-4.
Then in the seventh, with Steckenrider on in relief, the Wolves finished the comeback, plus some.
Winn found his way to first after Steckenrider hit him with a pitch, then scored on a Ramsey RBI triple. Two batters later, Tucker broke the tie with a two-run home run to center for his third and fourth RBIs of the game. Tucker finished the day 3-for-4.
"This is the third game that he has come up huge, Shaheen said of Tucker. "His name has been in the headlines all last week for us. This is a kid who didn't play varsity baseball last year. He is just relaxed. We call him (Adam) LaRoche because he takes naps on the bench between innings."
Gossett finished Wesleyan's scoring with an RBI single.
In the bottom half of the inning, GAC managed two runs before Garvin ended the comeback by freezing Ian Graham with a third strike on the corner.
"To play (GAC) in the first region game is tough," Shaheen said. "It is your rival and one of the best teams in our region. That is hard. "We were waiting to play a game that meant something. Playing to really put a one up there, whether it was a win or a loss, is fun."