Stanton strikes out 15 in Wesleyan win over rival GAC

NORCROSS - Grayson Garvin wasn't on the mound Thursday night, but it was hard to tell.

Sophomore left-hander Devin Stanton did a nifty impression of the Vanderbilt-bound Wesleyan ace against visiting Greater Atlanta Christian.

Stanton struck out 15 in a complete game 4-1 victory that guaranteed the Wolves home field in the first round of the state baseball playoffs and set up a showdown today for the No. 1 seed from Region 6-AA

No. 3-ranked Wesleyan will try to avenge its only region loss when it plays at No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Holy Innocents' at 5:30 p.m. today. The game was moved up a day because of the forecast for rain on Saturday.

Wesleyan won't have Garvin available, but maybe someone can step up just like Stanton did against GAC. It will be a very hard performance to duplicate, though.

Stanton (4-0) gave up a home run to Patrick Savage in the first inning, then held GAC hitless the rest of the way.

The left-hander struck out the side two times and had a pair of strikeouts in four other innings - including the seventh.

With a runner on, Stanton struck out Mark Edwards for the fourth time on his 137th pitch of the game.

"We wanted to push him to the next level, because we need him," Wesleyan coach Mike Shaheen said. "His pitch count was up, but he wanted the ball. He really showed what he could do."

Stanton walked four and hit a batter, but he never gave in with runners on base. Only once was GAC retired in order.

"We were short on pitching, so I knew I had to go deep in the game," Stanton said. "I was determined to go as far as I could."

Wesleyan is without Garvin or Ben Tucker until the playoffs, and Brooks Colquitt hasn't pitched yet this season.

Garvin had a precautionary MRI on Thursday and it came back negative, which meant that the Wolves were feeling upbeat even before the victory over GAC.

"Nothing was wrong, thankfully," Shaheen said. "He'll be fine for the playoffs."

Stanton, meanwhile, assured that Wesleyan will be at home for the first round.

A transfer from Parkview, Stanton is in his first year with the Wolves. But he already knows what it means in any sport when Wesleyan and GAC clash.

"I love rivalries and I knew it was a big game," Stanton said. "Our seniors hadn't lost to GAC and I wanted to do my part."

Savage's homer to left field on a 1-2 pitch gave GAC a quick lead, but it lasted only until the bottom of the first inning.

GAC starter Stephen Pepper (3-2) gave up singles to Max Hightower and Conor Welton, then Kevin Ruiz went with a 2-and-0 pitch and sliced a three-run homer to right field. It was Ruiz's eighth home run of the year.

Wesleyan's other run also came on a homer, with Brent Pugh connecting off Pepper in the fourth inning. Pugh, who had singled in the second inning, was the only player in the game with two hits.

Pepper got the start for GAC because ace Andrew Stenkenrider had a tender elbow of his own. "I wasn't going to risk it," Spartans coach Cliff Shelton said.

The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for No. 8 GAC, which is 12-3 in the region and 17-5 overall. The Spartans have clinched a playoff spot and can get the No. 3 seed from the region with a victory over Lovett, which is also 12-3.

Wesleyan, the defending region champion, hasn't lost since a 4-3 defeat at Holy Innocents' on March 22. The Wolves are 14-1 in the region and 19-3-1 overall.

Holy Innocents' is 14-1 in the region and 21-3 overall after a 15-5 loss at Walker on Thursday.

"We won the region last year and we want it again," Shaheen said. "Then we'll think about a state championship."