AIKEN, SC - The North
Georgia Saints survived two Augusta State rallies and a
three-home-run day from Shannon Wilkerson to beat the Jaguars 12-11
and earn a spot in the championship game of the 2009 PBC Tournament
in Aiken. The Saints scored twice in the top of the ninth for the
one-run win and will get their chance to defend their tournament
title against Francis Marion on Sunday night.
The Saints won the game with their second straight 12-11 decision after leading 6-1 and 10-5, only to see the Jaguars come back and tie the game.
Augusta State struck first in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Tim Rawlings drew a walk from NGCSU starter Michael Patton and moved to third on a single Tristan Toorie. With the bases loaded, Rawlings scored when Alex Walker was hit by a pitch.
North Georgia answered with a five-run explosion in the top of the second. ASU starter Patrick Lowe walked the first two batters he faced and was pulled for Stephen Ramsey. Lowe issued four walks in his one inning of work.
Craig Brisson started the scoring with an RBI single through the left side followed two batters later by an Andre Airich single with the bases loaded that scored one for a 2-1 lead. Brisson later scored on a fielder's choice and Chad Sage brought in two more with a single.
The Saints collected three straight two-out hits in the third to bring home another run as Jordan Erisman singled home Nicholas Fryman.
Augusta State answered in the bottom of the third with three runs to trim the lead to 6-4. With the bases loaded, Kevin Owens stroked a double down the left field line that brought home two. Walker then ground out to short to bring home Toorie. NGCSU starter Michael Patton the induced two groundouts to get out of the inning.
North Georgia brought out the big bats in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back solo home runs from Brad Hall and Sage. Sage's shot was to deep center field and bounced on top of the wall before going over.
ASU’s Shannon Wilkerson, the PBC Player of the Year, cut the lead to 8-5 in the bottom of the fourth with a towering home run to left.
North Georgia answered with another big fly in the fifth as Sage hit his second of the game off ASU reliever Chase Johnston that scored Andre Airich.
The score remained 10-5 until the bottom of the sixth when Wilkerson struck again, sending his second home run of the day over the left-field wall, bringing home Evan Smith, who led the inning off with a single.
ASU tied the game at 10 in the bottom of the seventh as Tim Rawlings sent a single into center field to score Smith. That was followed by a controversial triple from Toorie, who sent a deep fly to the gap in left center. Brisson, the Saints centerfielder, ran the ball down and got a glove on it, but it was ruled a trap allowing Rawlings and Wilkerson to score.
The Saints took the lead once again in the top of the ninth. ASU second baseman Tony Baker moved to the mound to pitch with one out and was replaced in the field by Dwight Ashe. The Saints loaded the bases, thanks to a pair of intentional walks to set up a possible double play. Sage then sent a roller to short but Ashe bobbled the relay and no out was recorded as Brisson scored. The Saints added another run on a Sharrett sacrifice fly to score Airich.
Wilkerson hit his third home run of the day, setting a new PBC Tournament record, with a one-out solo shot to the opposite field. But that would be the only hit the Jaguars would get in the ninth as Saint reliever Jack Rickett retired the other three batters to end the game.
Brisson finished 4-for-6 with two runs scored and an RBI while Sage went 3-for-6 with the two home runs and six RBIs, tied for the second-highest amount in a PBC tournament game. Fryman also had two hits for the Saints.
Blake Hobby (6-4) picked up the win with 1.1 innings of relief work. Patton went the first six innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits with six walks and six strikeouts. Rickett picked up the save with his ninth inning work, his fourth of the season.
Wikerson finished with four RBIs from his three home runs, scoring five times for Augusta State. Rawlings went 2-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI while Toorie was 2-for-3 with a run and two RBIs.
North Georgia meets Francis Marion in the title game for the second consecutive year, the Saints beat the Patriots 10-8 in the 2008 championship game.