LAWRENCEVILLE -- Of greater Gwinnett's nearly two dozen former high school players in the Sunbelt League baseball playoffs, second baseman Kurtis Robinson and pitcher Ben Marshall made lasting impressions -- from opposing dugouts at Coolray Field on Saturday.
Marshall, a pitcher formerly of Loganville High, helped the Berkeley Lake Tides win the college summer league's three-game championship series over the Douglasville Bulls, led by former Norcross player Robinson.
After Robinson's offensive firepower helped the Bulls win Saturday's first game 7-5 and force a deciding third, Marshall pitched seven effective innings of the second game to win the wooden-bat league championship 5-4 before an estimated 300 fans.
The Bulls forced a third game by overcoming a 5-1 deficit with five runs on four hits in the bottom of the fourth in Game 2. Robinson, now at Rome's Shorter College, keyed the inning with a three-run double, preceding another RBI double that tied the score 5-5.
The Bulls led 6-5 after four, then added an insurance run on a solo homer in the fifth. Robinson, who went 4-for-5 with the bases-clearing double and three singles, confessed he was somewhat nervous to start the series' must-win second game, following the Tides' 10-9 victory in the series opener on Thursday.
"The intensity level that (second) game was so high," said Robinson, a three-year player at Norcross until 2007. "I was nervous at first, but then settled in. I had a good approach today. That ball looked really big."
It looked like Berkeley might sweep Douglasville, once former Providence Christian player Chris Wages' infield hit tied Saturday's first game 1-1 and Peyton Hart's two-run single made it 3-1 in the second.
Former Parkview player Theo Asher's RBI double keyed Berkeley's two-run third that gave the Tides that 5-1 lead they ultimately couldn't hold. In the series finale, Marshall, a four-year player at Loganville who won a state championship as a senior there in 2008, withstood Douglasville's 3-0 lead on two runs in the second and another in the third. The Georgia State right-hander then settled down to retire 15 of 17 batters, before eventually giving way to reliever Zeb Heidt to start the eighth. Marshall allowed three runs on four hits through seven, while striking out seven and walking five.
"I just wanted to keep us in the game," Marshall said of Berkeley Lake's frayed once Douglasville forced a deciding game. "I knew I had to hunker down, though my arm felt a little tight." The Tides couldn't breathe a sigh of relief until the final, scary out, once Douglasville had pulled within a run in the ninth and loaded the bases. Evan Boyd flew out to nearly the warning track in right to end the game, and the crack of his bat put a scare into Tides manager Karl Garcia. "The second he hit it, we thought it was gone," Garcia said. "Luckily, though, it wasn't."