SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Georgia Gwinnett College baseball players smashed five home runs, including three in a decisive sixth inning, during a 13-6 come-from-behind victory against the University of Saint Katherine (Calif.) in Monday’s NAIA Opening Round Santa Barbara Bracket, being hosted by Westmont College.
The top-seeded Grizzlies (43-9) advance to play No. 2 seed Hope International University (Calif.) in a winner’s bracket contest on Tuesday, May 18, at 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
With the team trailing 5-1, senior Griffin Keller and junior Gabe Howell blasted back-to-back home runs to opposite fields to ignite a rally that had GGC tying the game, 5-5. Another homer, a three-run blast from junior Nick Barnes, completed the rally to give the Grizzlies the lead for good, 8-5.
GGC’s power display continued in the seventh inning with Keller connecting on a two-run homer and Barnes hitting a second three-run home run. That extended the advantage to 13-5.
Saint Katherine (30-17) hit five solo home runs over the first four innings in building the 5-1 lead. The No. 4 seed Firebirds connected on two homers during the third inning. They were playing their second game of the day after defeating No. 5 seed Corban University (Ore.) 3-0.
GGC freshman reliever Gage Williams silenced the Firebirds’ bats the rest of the way, allowing one run across five strong innings. The right-hander picked up his fifth win for the season.
Keller led the Grizzlies’ 13-hit offensive attack by going 2-for-5 with six RBIs. Junior Austin Bates tallied three hits, while Barnes added three hits and six RBIs. Howell also collected two hits in the opening-day victory.
“Gage (Williams) helped change the momentum after coming into the game," GGC head coach Jeremy Sheetinger said. "Our team’s toughness is exponential to the situation that’s before them. Griffin’s at-bat (in the sixth) was the critical point. Quality at-bats from Cord (Johnson) and Austin (Bates) set the table for Griffin to do something special.”