Georgia Gwinnett College outfielder Phillip Bates heads to first base in the Grizzlies' season opener. (Photo: Tom Grason)
LAWRENCEVILLE — It might not have been pretty, but it was gritty and it was a win.
Georgia Gwinnett College rallied to beat Shawnee State 11-6 on Friday, overcoming some opening-day jitters and showing its offense has teeth.
The Grizzlies battled back from three deficits and took a chunk out of Shawnee’s bullpen with a seven-run seventh inning that put them ahead for good.
“We are just thrilled we got the win,” head coach Brad Stromdahl said. “We got the first one out of the way and we were able to see what our team is about. Really what we do now is go in and make some adjustments.
“It’s the first weekend and you’re just hoping to survive no matter who you’re playing or where you’re at. But a W is a W and that’s what we’ll take.”
These two teams meet again at 2 p.m. Saturday for a doubleheader. Shawnee ate into its bullpen in the opener, chewing through five pitchers after starter Cody Strayer did a good job keeping GGC off-balance for 4 1/3 innings.
“Their starter was outstanding,” Stromdahl said. “We only had two or three hits through the first five. We scored our runs after we got that guy out of the game so that was a great job offensively. We got into the bullpen so hopefully that’s beneficial for us tomorrow.”
The Grizzlies were down 1-0, 3-1 and 6-4 before breaking the game open in the seventh. They took advantage of four walks issued by three different pitchers and scored seven runs to grab a 11-6 lead. It was just their second lead of the game, but it was way more than enough.
Collins Hill grad Garitt Church led off the rally with a single. Pat Long followed him with a screaming double down the third-base line and Shawnee made the first of three pitching changes. But reliever Bryan Sharkey walked Ty Abbott to load the bases and that was the end of his brief appearance.
His replacement, Brandon Bonar, faired no better.
Zach Alvord hammered a shot to the wall in the corner in left, bringing in two runs and tying the game 6-6. Robbie Payne drew a walk to load the bases again and a five-pitch free pass to designated hitter Jake Fields gave GGC a 7-6 lead.
That was the end of Bonar’s night and the Grizzlies kept coming.
Christian Van Camp walked, which plated another run, and Central Gwinnett grad Phillip Bates smoked a liner to the gap at second that took a weird hop. The bounce allowed Payne and Fields to scamper in and pushed GGC’s lead to 10-6. Van Camp capped the scoring when he touched home on a balk.
“We scoring in every inning they scored in,” Stromdahl said. “So we were always able to come back and answer anything they had offensively. That’s a testament of really bearing down.
“Yeah, we had three errors, but our offense was really in tune. We didn’t swing out of the strike zone. We really put ourselves in a good position to get those base hits and get the bases loaded on a walk.”
Bates, last year’s top hitter, led the way offensively with a 3-for-5 performance that included four RBIs and a run scored. Church was 2-for-3 with and RBI and a run scored as well as two outstanding diving snags at second base to stymie Shawnee hitters. Alvord finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored.
Collectively, the Grizzlies has the same number of walks as hits (nine). They also had players hit by a pitch a whopping seven times — three of those on Fields alone.