Wilmington, N.C.óGeorgia State rallied from five runs down for a 12-10 victory over UNC Wilmington Saturday at Brooks Field to give the Panthers their first Colonial Athletic Association championship and send State to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
Panther first baseman Bradley Logan belted his fourth home run of the tournament and drove in three runs to earn Most Outstanding Player honors. Freshman Brandon Williams also drove in three runs, including a two-run homer in the sixth inning.
Trailing 8-3, the Panthers (39-20) scored four runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth, all with two outs, to defeat the Seahawks (31-23) on their home field.
Sophomore pitcher-first baseman Theo Asher (1-2) pitched 3-1/3 innings in relief to earn the victory, Georgia State’s eighth straight win, 13th in the last 15 games and school-record 39th of the season. Asher allowed just two runs on four hits before giving way to freshman Justin Malone, who earned his second save of the tournament and seventh of the year. Malone finished three of the four Georgia State victories in the tournament.
“What a hard-fought win. UNC Wilmington is a great program, and we knew it would not be easy to beat them on their field,” said Georgia State head coach Greg Frady. “But we really thought if we could survive the first four innings, we could win it in the back half of the game. And that’s exactly what happened.
“Things looked bleak for a while, but I never thought we were out of the game, and neither did our players. We’ve got 11 wonderful seniors, and they played like champions.”
Georgia State fell behind 8-3 before putting four runs up in the fifth inning, all with two outs, to close the gap to 8-7. Three runs scored on consecutive singles by Mimeault, Williams and Carl Moniz, and the fourth run crossed the plate after Mike McCree’s infield single. UNCW shortstop Mike Rooney knocked the ball down behind second base and tried to flip it to the bag to get Moniz, but the ball scooted away, allowing Williams to score from second.
The Panthers added four more in the sixth to take their first lead. Derek Simmons and Chase Childers walked to lead off the inning, and Simmons advanced to third on Logan’s fly ball. Matt Van Horn grounded out sharply to first base, and after first baseman Robbie Monday stepped on the bag, he threw down to second base, but Childers just beat the tag, allowing Simmons to score the tying run. Mimeault followed with the go-ahead run-scoring single, and then Williams belted his second home run of the season to right field for an 11-8 lead.
State added an insurance run in the seventh to push their lead to 12-8 before UNCW answered with two runs in the eighth. The Seahawks were threatening for more but a line drive double play helped the Panthers get out of the jam.
Georgia State fell behind early as the Seahawks scored single runs in the first and second frames. Panther starter Adam Knight failed to get out of the first inning, and Georgia State used three pitchers in the first three innings.
“They sent 14 batters to the plate the first two innings, and we were only down 2-0,” said Frady. “I told our players that even though we were behind, we won that part of the game.”
Logan, the junior from Augusta, Ga., got Georgia State on the board in the second inning with his fourth home run of the tournament, an opposite field blast and his ninth of the season.
The Seahawks pushed across three runs in the third inning to take a 5-1 lead. UNCW pounded out five straight hits, highlighted by Grayson Evans’ two-run double.
Georgia State answered with Logan’s two-run single in the bottom of the inning to pull within 5-3, but the Seahawks tacked on three unearned runs in the fourth to extend their lead to 8-3 before the Panthers began their comeback.
“We did a great job of navigating our way through this tournament," said Frady. "It’s a tough tournament. We can be extremely proud of the fact that we beat a Top 25 team in George Mason, and we beat UNC Wilmington in the winner’s bracket on their home field, and then we beat Wilmington again on their home field in the championship game.
“The players did a fantastic job all week, and for that, I’m totally humbled.
“I told the players before the game, There are very few times in life where you get the opportunity to be the first at something. A small window will open up, and if you run through that window, people will never forget you. Today our boys made history. They are champions. It feels great to bring the first baseball championship to our University, and to play in an NCAA Regional will be a lifetime experience for these guys."
The Panthers will learn their NCAA destination on Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET on the ESPN selection show.
“We talked about changing the atmosphere around Georgia State baseball," said Logan. "In the past, it’s been, Let’s make the [CAA] tournament. This year we have an older, experienced group, and we knew that we could beat anybody. We knew that we wanted to come and win this tournament, not just make it.
“This is more than a team," continued Logan. "We’re always together, even off the field, and the bonds grow. I try to set an example. I try to bring energy every day, and I try to be a leader.
"Marc [Mimeault] is our leader on the field. He’s not a vocal guy, his play does all the talking, and you don’t understand how valuable Marc is until you play with him. So I try to take some of the vocal leadership and help out the young guys to give them confidence. I think that’s my role on this team."
“Marc is definitely our on-the-field leader," said Frady. "Bradley is our competitive leader. We get our juices from Bradley. He is vocal, he’s high energy, and our team feeds off his energy. Our team also feeds off Marc’s stable, mature leadership, but our competitive nature comes from Bradley.
“He got hit in the head today (by a pitch). I think a lot of kids might have asked to come out, but he bounced right back and helped us find a way to win.”