Gordon’s late-season run continues with win
It’s a matter of keeping things in perspective.
The Gordon (Ga.) College baseball team has learned how to do that.
The Highlanders, who overcame a rough start this season that challenged their camaraderie, defeated Shelton State (Ala.) Community College 13-3 in six innings Sunday night at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
“I think these guys realize life’s going to throw you a lot of tough things you have to deal with,” Gordon coach Travis McClanahan said. “There were smoke jumpers staying at our hotel. We mentioned that to a couple of our guys.
“This is just baseball. The obstacles we dealt with early on made us realize we can overcome those things. We learned to have fun playing baseball, then we started winning games. I’m not taking any credit for what they’ve done. They’ve figured this out themselves.”
Gordon pitcher Jeb Dills, who overcame a personal tragedy, led a team meeting that spurred the team out of its slow start.
“The big thing we talked about was the team that can come, play ball the way it has all season like any other game will be successful,” Dills said. “I wanted to pitch like I pitched all year.”
He started for Gordon in the school’s first JUCO World Series appearance and shined. The sophomore left-hander allowed three runs on six hits in six innings for the victory.
“I’m not surprised,” McClanahan said of Dills’ performance. “He doesn’t blow people away, but people that know baseball and understand the game really appreciate the way he goes about his business.
“He’s a very calm, stoic young man. We have a lot of confidence in him. He’s not the best stuff guy, but he’s got good stuff for us. That’s why he starts Game 1.”
The Highlanders’ offense, which was hitting .292 entering the JUCO World Series, came out swinging immediately.
Devin Bonin led off the bottom of the first inning with a double to right-center field and scored on an error with two outs.
Aaron Mizell led off the third inning with a solo home run into the parking lot. Bobby Woodall followed with a solo home run almost to the same spot to chase Shelton State starter Alex Milazzo.
Drew Adams doubled to left-center field, reached third on a passed ball and scored on a Jody Stone sacrifice fly for a 4-0 lead.
“You can ask anybody if you thought we’d be here, and everybody would say no,” Stone said. “We just turned it on. We’re so confident right now.”
Lance Wilson got Shelton State going in the fourth inning with a bunt single. He stole second base, reached third base on a wild pitch and scored on a J.C. Wilhite single.
Terrance Dedrick and Wilhite successfully executed a double steal, setting up Greg Howard’s sacrifice bunt to score Dedrick. Howard reached safely. Austin Kilbourne followed with a sacrifice fly to right to score Wilhite, but Gordon escaped holding on to a 4-3 lead.
The Highlanders’ Chance Bridges led off the fifth inning with a walk. Adams followed with a double, and Stone followed with a two-run triple to left center. Stone scored on a sacrifice fly from Christian Davila for a 7-3 lead.
“We turned ourselves into one-pitch pitchers all night, and they were able to tee off,” said Shelton State coach Bobby Sprowl, whose pitchers combined to walk nine batters. “I mean, they hit some balls hard that we made some plays on. And, of course, we misplayed some balls. We didn’t play real good. You know, it all starts with pitching, and we didn’t pitch at all.”
Gordon added six runs in the sixth to end the game early on a run rule.
Mizell led off with a double to go with a home run and a triple earlier in the game, and he scored on a wild pitch. The next two runners scored on bases-loaded walks. Brian Jacobs singled home a run, then Grant Massey scored the final run.