ATLANTA-Chase Raffield's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning capped Georgia State's rally from a 10-1 deficit and lifted the Panthers to an amazing, 12-10, victory over Old Dominion
Saturday at the GSU Baseball Complex, clinching the Colonial Athletic Association series for GSU.
GSU earned its fourth straight win and ninth victory in the last 11 games to improve to 13-6, 4-1 in the CAA, while ODU fell to 9-8, 2-3 CAA.
Georgia State trailed 10-1 in the sixth inning before beginning its rally with the first of two home runs by Nic Wilson. Wilson's second homer of the game came with one out in the bottom of the ninth and brought the Panthers within 10-9. Greg Bowder kept GSU alive with a two-out walk and moved to second on a passed ball. Then, on Garitt Church's hit infield single, Bowder came home with the tying run when the second baseman threw wildly to first.
That brought Raffield to the plate, and the left-handed hitting junior blasted the 1-2 fastball from ODU reliever Brandon Smith (0-1) over the right field fence for his third homer of the season and the improbable victory.
Ironically, this dramatic comeback came one year to the day after the Panthers scored 11 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning - 10 of them with two outs - to turn a 10-run deficit into a 13-12 victory over Northeastern on March 16, 2012.
"Being down 10-1 in the sixth, it takes something really special to come back, but when you have the type of offense we have, you should never feel like you're out of it," said GSU head coach Greg Frady. "In the last inning, Nic Wilson hit a two-strike home run, Garitt Church had a two-strike base hit, Chase Raffield hit a two-strike home run. We were just down to it, but the never-quit attitude and the positive energy gave us a positive result."
Down 10-1, the Panthers began to chip away in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two runs on Wilson's two-run homer, his first of the season. GSU added two more in the seventh, when Shane Gordon led off with a pinch-hit single, moved to third on a single by Chad Prain and then scored on a passed ball. Prain came around to score on a fielder's choice by Josh Merrigan when the second baseman threw wildly to first trying to turn the double play. Those two runs brought GSU within 10-5 after seven.
The Panthers inched closer with three runs in the eighth. Church, making his first start, drove in Joey Roach, who doubled to lead off the inning, and then Prain delivered a two-run single to make the score 10-8. Georgia State brought the tying run to the plate, but Smith struck out Chris Triplett and Merrigan to end the inning and set up the dramatic ninth inning.
"This team is never out of it because we can always swing it," said Raffield, who hit Georgia State's second walk-off homer in the last week. "We're always ready to come back because we know we have a chance.
"Nic Wilson's two home runs kept us going," Raffield continued. "The first one got us going, and the second one just lifted us up even more. All the other guys did the little things, scrapping out hits, making plays, Brantley Burton coming in and giving us a couple of innings. I was blessed to be up there in that spot with the chance to win the game."
Frady added, "There were so many heroes in this game. Garitt Church was amazing. Shane Gordon's pinch-hit single helped us so much. Nic Wilson's two home runs were on point. Chad Prain had four hits. The home run chase Raffield hit ... amazing. Greg Bowder's two-out walk when were down one ... amazing. Just a lot of amazing things."
GSU freshman reliever Brantley Burton entered the game in the sixth inning and allowed just one run on four hits over 3-1/3 innings while striking out three. In the top of the ninth, he gave way to Connor Stanley (2-0) with one out and a runner in scoring position, and Stanley got the final two outs to keep the Panthers within two runs and earn the win.
ODU starter Ryan Yarbrough allowed five runs on eight hits over five inning and did not figure in the decision.
Prain, the Panthers' leading hitter, went 4-for-5 on the day with two RBI. Wilson knocked in three runs with his two homers, and Church and Raffield had two RBI each.
The two teams conclude the series Sunday at 1 p.m. at the GSU Baseball Complex.