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Gwinnett grads: Pirkle, Snell have GCSU chasing title

Richard Pirkle and Chandler Snell didn't meet until the Gwinnett Dugout Club's banquet following their senior seasons.

Soon enough though, they were assigned as roommates by the Georgia College and State University baseball coaches. Now four years later, they are two of the team leaders as the Bobcats aim for the Peach Belt Conference title.

GCSU, ranked 12th nationally, is 26-12 overall and 14-4 in the Peach Belt Conference, good for first in the West Division.

"We have so many seniors, so we've set high goals," said Snell, a South Gwinnett grad and the team's only four-year starter. "For the postseason, we want to go to the (Division II) World Series. We're not going to be happy with anything less."

Snell, a shortstop, is hitting .300 with 20 RBIs and 13 stolen bases, while his teammate Pirkle is third on the team with a .339 batting average. Pirkle, a redshirt junior catcher, got off to a monster start before cooling lately.

The Norcross grad still has a team-high 11 home runs, 44 RBIs, a team-high 14 doubles and 10 stolen bases.

"I'm just trying to do my part," Pirkle said. "When I'm on, it's nice to pick up my team. If I'm not, I know I've got my teammates to pick me up."

Several other Gwinnett grads also have contributed greatly at GCSU, including relief pitchers Ryan Tabor (Collins Hill) and Dillon Waters (Peachtree Ridge). Tabor has 17 appearances (15 in relief) and is 2-4 with three saves and 29 strikeouts to 12 walks in 25 innings.

Senior Brett George, a Grayson grad, has 15 starts and also has played as a reserve. He's hitting .429 with 11 RBIs and nine stolen bases.

BASEBALL

Plagman a finalist for Lowe's award

Georgia Tech senior Tony Plagman has been named one of 10 national baseball finalists for the Lowe's Senior Class Award, given to student-athletes who excel both on and off the baseball field and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence -- classroom, character, community and competition.

Fan voting will be combined with coaches, media and sponsor voting to determine the national winner. Those interested in voting for Plagman, a Wesleyan grad, can go to www.seniorclassaward.com.

Langley among A-Sun's top hitters

Mercer senior Michael Langley, a Parkview grad, is one of the leading hitters in the 11-team Atlantic Sun Conference.

Langley's 64 hits are the most in the league and he is fourth in batting average at .408. The four-year starter has three home runs and 27 RBIs this season.

North Georgia relying on Gwinnett grads

A total of 13 Gwinnett grads are on the North Georgia baseball roster, and those players supply much of the Saints' offense as they chase Georgia College in the Peach Belt West.

Freshman Kenny Bellavance of Parkview leads the team with a .376 batting average and has 22 RBIs, while former Parkview standout Craig Brisson is hitting .317 with 29 RBIs.

Brookwood grads Jordan Erisman (.320 average, 4 homers, 36 RBIs), Troy Snitker (.306, 6 homers, 37 RBIs) and Anders Oster (.365, 14 RBIs) also have been key players for the Saints (27-13, 13-8).

Duluth's Brad Hall is hitting .306 with five homers and 32 RBIs.

Lewis leading Columbus State

Brookwood grad Ryan Lewis, a sophomore outfielder, leads Columbus State (32-8, 9-6) with a .364 batting average. He also has seven home runs, 43 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.

Teammate Wes Adkins, a senior and a Brookwood grad, has 10 homers and 28 RBIs. North Gwinnett's Mitch Rider has two homers and 14 RBIs.

Baker, Toorie bright spots

Tony Baker of Dacula and Tristan Toorie of Brookwood continue to be bright spots for struggling Augusta State (14-25).

Baker is hitting .322 with seven homers and 36 RBIs, while Toorie has a .331 batting average with five homers and 34 RBIs.

SOFTBALL

Coan shining for Tech

Former Greater Atlanta Christian standout Jessica Coan dominated Virginia yet again last weekend, helping Georgia Tech continue its roll in ACC play.

Coan's two-hit shutout against Virginia last Sunday improved her career record against the Cavaliers to 3-0. In 13 career innings vs. UVA, she has 18 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA.

Coan has an 11-1 record this season with a 2.02 ERA. She is fourth in the ACC in opponents' batting average at just .155.

Hesson has huge weekend

Georgia swept its SEC softball series at Ole Miss with the help of a stellar weekend from North Gwinnett grad Brianna Hesson.

Hesson went 3-for-4 with a career-high six RBIs in the Bulldogs' Game 1 win, then hit her team-leading 11th home run in Sunday's 6-5 win in Game 3.

Dacula grad Alanna Hadley earned her first Bulldog victory in Game 2, going five scoreless innings of relief with three hits and no walks in a 6-0 win. Shiloh grad Megan Wiggins, who extended her hitting streak to nine games in Saturday's doubleheader, also stole home in Game 2.

Mason named week's top pitcher

Collins Hill grad Kim Mason, a sophomore at Mississippi College, was named recently as the American Southwest Conference pitcher of the week.

Mason was 2-1 with a save and appeared in all four of her team's games the previous week to earn the honor. She pitched a total of 192/3 innings, helping her team to a 3-1 record for the week.

Locals help North Georgia to milestone

Gwinnett grads Courtney McGuire (Central Gwinnett), Jessica Skeels (Central Gwinnett) and Natasha Willemse (Peachtree Ridge) each homered Wednesday for North Georgia in a historic sweep of Lander.

The wins gave North Georgia the first perfect regular season (41-0, 20-0) in the history of the Peach Belt Conference. The top-ranked Saints, who have won a record 41 straight Peach Belt games, also are the only undefeated Division II team in the nation.

GOLF

Stembridge wins college golf tourney

Auburn golfer John Stembridge, a Norcross resident who went to Marist, won last weekend's Bluegrass Invitational at the University of Kentucky.

The sophomore shot rounds of 71, 65 and 70, leading the Tigers to second place by a stroke in the 24-team tournament.

TENNIS

Opata gets conference honor

Central Gwinnett grad Anastesia Opata, a senior at Xavier University (La.), was named the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference women's tennis player of the week on Monday. It was her fourth time being honored by the league during the past two seasons.

Opata scored her team's only two points last week in a loss to Southern, winning at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles.

Locals stand out for UGA track

Three Gwinnett grads -- Buford's Summer Nelson, Dacula's Israel Machovec and Collins Hill's Allyson McGinty -- had top performances for Georgia's track and field team at its Spec Towns National Team Invitational last weekend.

Nelson, a junior, won her first race as a Bulldog, placing first in the 1,500-meter run in 4 minutes, 46.74 seconds.

Machovec, a senior thrower, posted a career-best shot put of 59 feet, 9 inches, good for the No. 10 spot in Georgia's record books. His toss was third overall, but he was the top college finisher.

McGinty, a freshman, broke 18 minutes for the first time as a UGA runner to take third in the 5,000. She ran 17:51.88.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.