GSW ends regular season with win, looks to PBC Tourney
By CHRIS WHITAKER
CARROLLTON — Zack Stanton and Trent Dooley were up to their old ways on Tuesday.
The two lead Georgia Southwestern in multiple-RBI games, and they added another to the list.
They had back-to-back 2-run hits to spark a 5-run seventh inning as the Hurricanes finished the regular season with an 8-2 win at West Georgia.
Dooley finished 2-for-3 with three RBI, and Stanton's hit was a double as GSW (27-18) improved to 15-6 in non-conference games.
"I thought it was a big win for us," said coach Bryan McLain. "You always want to end your year on a good note heading into the tournament. You want to feel like you’re playing as well as you can going in, and I think we’re pretty close to that."
The Hurricanes have won their last four games out of conference and will prepare for their first Peach Belt Conference Tournament, which begins May 8 at USC Aiken. They will play No. 5 Francis Marion in the opener at 11 a.m.
McLain said Tuesday’s win was a good way to build entering the tournament.
GSW took the lead for good at 3-2 in the fifth inning behind
Dooley’s team-leading 14th double. The Darton transfer has
been a welcomed addition to the Hurricane offense.
Dooley leads the team in batting average (.370) and hits (71) and is second in RBI (46).
"He’s just an outstanding hitter No. 1," said McLain. "He’s kind of gone through a little bit of a slump the previous few weekends, but he’s starting to pick it back up. He had three good games this weekend, and his last few non-conference games, he’s had some really good at-bats. He is an active role in our lineup and the heart and soul of what we do."
Bud Long was the other player with multiple hits with three. McLain said the good thing about the offense this season is when one player has been down, there’s always been another to pick up the slack for the most part.
Five players are batting over .300, and five have 30 or more RBI.
One area McLain said is essential in improving before the tournament is not leaving as many runners on base. GSW is leaving almost 10 runners on a game.
"We still have got to continue to work on having good at-bats with guys in scoring position," he said. "We've had periods throughout the year where we can get them on, but we have trouble getting them in. We really want to continue to focus on doing a good job with that."
McLain said starting pitching has also been an integral part of the team finishing at .500 in conference play. GSW had had six players start at some point this season.
"When we’ve got good starting pitching, we've usually been in position where we had a chance to win the game," said McLain.
Travis Barrett improved to 6-1 on the mound, pitching 5.1 innings and allowing two runs on six hits. Brandon Reeder didn’t allow a hit in 1.2 innings, and position player Jared Allen made his third appearance, allowing one hit over two innings.
Reeder entered with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth when he induced a ground ball resulting in the inning-ending double play.
"Brandon came in and executed well in a crucial point of the game,” said McLain. “We go from being in a pretty tough spot to still having the lead. Right after that, we put up five runs. That’s a big point to the season."
West Georgia (13-40) took a 1-0 lead in the first when GSW tied it in the second when Beau Parker was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. The Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on a Chris Lingham RBI-single.
GSW finished the season ninth in the PBC in batting (.305) and
10th in team ERA (5.70).
Dooley was 13th in batting, and Chris Carroll finished 10th in ERA at 3.94. Carroll has started in three of his last four games, receiving only one decision — a loss at Francis Marion. McLain said after the Georgia College series is when the first thought of Carroll possibly starting.
"I think he could make a case that he might have been one of the best guys we have on the team," said McLain. "We weren't getting the opportunity to use him enough. We want to have the best players on the field if we can and when we can.
"To Ryan Lackey and Jody Sellars, those guys have stepped up in their game. Ryan's last two starts have been outstanding, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I don’t think we have had the same combination of pitchers who start or the same order of personnel but two or three times. We’re trying to find something to have a good result at the end."
Six of the eight tournament teams are ranked in the top 30 this week with the exception of GSW and Flagler. The tournament is single elimination, and that doesn’t bother McLain at all since it's their first appearance.
"It's always scary because if you have a bad game, that's it," he said. "At the same time, from the standpoint where we are, if we get hot, all we’ve got to do is win three games. Some coaches don’t like it and have good reasons for not liking it. I can’t complain because of our circumstances."
The Hurricanes will play Francis Marion at USC Aiken while Flagler and North Georgia will play at Lake Olmstead in Augusta at 11 a.m.
The other two quarterfinal games pit UNC Pembroke against Columbus State at 2:30 p.m. and Georgia College against USC Aiken at 6 p.m. Both games are at Aiken.