May 11, 2008

Saints sweep PBC Tourney, advance to NCAA Regional

North Georgia records schools first tournament championship

AIKEN, SC - The North Georgia College & State University Saints, making their first-ever PBC Tournament appearance, won the championship by beating Francis Marion 10-8 on Sunday at Roberto Hernandez Stadium.

The Saints put up six runs in the bottom of the second inning and held off a furious Patriot rally in the sixth to claim the tournament title and earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

After the conclusion of the tournament, Chris Curtis and Chad Sage were named to the 2008 PBC All-tournament Team, while Logan Sharrett was named tournament MVP.

Francis Marion began the game in championship form, scoring twice in the top of the first inning. After Justin Greene was hit by a pitch and stood on first, Jared Barkdoll laced a single out to center field. NGCSU's Josh Tate fielded the ball and attempted to throw Greene out at third, but instead threw it high and into the North Georgia dugout, allowing Greene to score and Barkdoll to reach third. Barkdoll later scored on a groundout by Preston Shuey.

NGCSU answered in the bottom of the first with three runs. FMU starter David Walters issued back-to-back walks and then an RBI single to Tate that scored Rob Flanigan. Chad Sagen then doubled to right center to score two more runs and give the Saints their first lead. That was the end of the day for Walters, who was replaced by Cory Deering (L, 3-5) after 2/3 of an inning.

Francis Marion added another run in the second on a Greg Phelps double that scored Ryan Hypke, after Hypke reached on a two-out single.

Tied at three, the Saints appeared to put the game away in the second with a six-run outburst. Tournament MVP Logan Sharrett began the rally with an RBI single to center, followed by a similar hit from Andre Airich. After Sharrett scored on a groundout, Chad Sage came to the plate with two on and launched a three-run home run to right field.

FMU added another run in the third as Keon Graves singled through the right side of the infield to score Shuey. That run was the last for North Georgia starter Jesse Coxwell, who lasted only two innings before being lifted for Alex Simmons (W, 4-0). Simmons pitched the next three innings to get the win, allowing two earned runs on two hits while striking out two.

Ed Paul came in for FMU to relieve Deering in the third and cruised through the next four innings, holding the Saints in check with five strikouts. Francis Marion made the most of that in the sixth as they came back with four runs to make it a one-run game.

The FMU rally started with a single by Chris Honeycutt and a walk to Graves. Simmons was then lifted for pitcher Zack Black (S, 3) who induced a pop-up before Hypke singled to load the bases. Greg Phelps then brought home three runs with his second double of the day, then later scored himself on an RBI single from Justin Greene.

After getting roughed up in the sixth, Black rebounded to set down the Patriots in order in the seventh. Black went four innings to get the save, allowing four hits and striking out three.

NGCSU added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on a Tate sacrifice fly, but they would not need to cash it in as Black cruised through the eighth and the ninth, setting the Patriots down in order in the top of the ninth, including a pop-up to short to end the game and send the Saints into a celebratory mob on the pitchers mound.

Sage finished the game 2-for-5 with the two doubles and five RBIs to be named to the All-Tournament team. Tate had three RBIs and two runs scored for the Saints while Craig Brisson was 3-for-5 with two runs scored.

North Georgia Post Game Quotes

Head Coach Tom Cantrell

Opening Statement: "Just another great day in Aiken, South Carolina.  I can't say enough about what my players did, we had the conversation about the weather and all those factors that were in play.  I met with (the players) about midnight last night and I told them not to worry about the weather, that we were going to get a chance to settle it on the field.  These guys have been on a mission since April started, winning 23 out of 26 games against good competition. Give Francis Marion credit, they hung in there after it would have been easy for them to quit when it was 9-3." 

After winning 23 of 26 and now headed to the regional, what are your expectations: "Our expectations are to keep this thing rolling.  We are like most schools that when the season starts out we have a plan.  Whether it is a dream or not, it should be everybody's goal to win the national championship.  The realization is that we want to do next week what we did this week.  A lot of people in the coaching profession say it is impossible to win two tournaments.  I have heard it several times that if you win the conference tournament you usually do not do well in the regional.  I just think that is a myth.  Everybody is going to tee it up again.  There are going to be some good teams there, there are good teams here.  We think we are one of the good teams, we have played like it over the last month, and we hope we can continue to do it.  We will see what happens, that is all we can do." 

Chad Sage

On coming up big after being hitless in the first two games, including a three-run home run: "I didn't get a hit the first two games.  I was pressing too much, trying to do too much with the ball.  These last two games I have tried to get my foot down, choke up on the bat, and put the ball in play somewhere and let it happen." 

How much of a relief was it to come up big and hit a three-run home run: "It was a big relief, I just wanted to drive it and make sure we could get a run out of it.  The ball kept going and went over the fence.  It felt good to get a lot of momentum going and I think that carried us a long way."  

Zack Black 

On calming down and pitching well after giving up a big hit to cut the lead to one: "We still had the lead after that hit and our hitters have been hitting the whole tournament.  So I knew if I could keep us the lead and control the damage our offense would get some more runs for us."

North Georgia now awaits their assignment in the NCAA Tournament, which should be released later on Sunday.


2008 PBC Tournament
All-Tournament Team

Jonnie Geiger, Columbus State
Brandon Masters, Columbus State
Peden Rucker, USC Aiken
Justin Greene, Francis Marion
Greg Phelps, Francis Marion
Ed Paul, Francis Marion
Chris Curtis, North Georgia
Chad Sage, North Georgia

Tournament MVP - Logan Sharrett, North Georgia