The Georgia Gwinnett College baseball team celebrates after clinching its first-ever postseason championship in the Association of Independent Institutions Tournament. (Special photo: Anthony Perry)
LYNN, Mass. — Senior Tyler Carpenter threw seven scoreless innings with four strikeouts and senior Sloan Strickland went 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs as the Georgia Gwinnett College baseball team earned its first-ever postseason championship Monday afternoon.
The Grizzlies, in their first year of postseason eligibility, captured the Association of Independent Institutions championship tournament with an 11-0 victory over Houston-Victoria (Texas) at Fraser Field in Lynn, Mass.
Strickland earned Tournament MVP honors, finishing 10-for-22 at the plate with six RBIs, six runs scored, four doubles and a home run over five games.
Meanwhile, in two starts in the tournament, Carpenter (8-1) allowed just one run in 14.2 total innings with 12 strikeouts and no walks, yielding just seven hits to earn a pair of victories.
The top-seeded Grizzlies (48-10), who had been down to their final out in an elimination game Sunday, finished 4-1 on the week, opening and closing the tournament with a win over the sixth-seeded Jaguars (23-31).
The NAIA No. 6 Grizzlies now advance to the Lawrenceville (Ga.) Bracket of the 2014 NAIA Baseball National Championships Opening Round at the Grizzly Baseball Complex, May 12-15. The complete tournament field will be announced Friday, May 9 at 8 p.m.
“I am absolutely thrilled for these guys and for our first conference championship,” said GGC head coach Brad Stromdahl. “This senior class has laid the foundation for this program. Their effort was tried and tested over the last 58 games and everyone in our organization has played a huge role in winning this title. We had seniors come up in extremely big spots all weekend. They simply stepped up.”
Phillip Bates added a 3-for-5 performance Monday while Ty Abbott went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored and William Paschal drove in a pair of runs.
Strickland gave the Grizzlies a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a solo home run, his second of the season.
Three GGC hits in the fourth inning added to the lead. Abbott started a two-out rally with a single, then stole both second and third base. Strickland followed with an RBI single, then after a single and a walk, Antonio Allen drove in a run on a bases-loaded walk for a 3-0 lead.
Bates scored on a double play in the fifth to make it 4-0.
The Grizzlies added five more runs in the eighth inning. Christian Van Camp singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single from Pat Long to make it 5-0. Later in the inning, Payne drew a walk with the bases loaded, then Bates scored on a wild pitch. Abbott drove in a run with a sacrifice fly as GGC went ahead, 8-0, and Strickland drilled a double into the left field corner to extend the lead to 9-0.
The final GGC runs came in the top of the ninth with Paschal’s two-run single to score Jereid Woods and Kyle Norton.
Left-hander Austin Smith completed the Grizzlies’ sixth shutout win of the year with two scoreless innings of relief and three strikeouts.
“These guys have been through the ringer all year and you just let them play,” said Stromdahl. “They know what to do and we were fortunate to win against some very good teams. Tyler Carpenter was the reason we won the first and last games and like our other seniors, he’s a huge reason that we won the tournament.”
The Grizzly baseball team is the third conference champion among GGC’s six intercollegiate sports during the 2013-14 season, joining the men’s soccer and men’s tennis teams to win titles in the program's first year of postseason eligibility.