Saints drop Regional opener 1-0 to USC Aiken
North Georgia to play elimination game Friday at 3:00 p.m.
MOUNT OLIVE, NC - North Georgia College & State University got a complete game masterpiece from senior Chris Curtis in the opening game of the South Atlantic Regional, but USC Aiken managed an unearned run in the third inning to sneak away with a 1-0 victory Thursday afternoon at Scarborough Field on the campus of Mount Olive College.
Curtis walked to the hill and pitched the game of his life Thursday afternoon in the first round of the South Atlantic Regional, striking out nine and allowing just four hits. A fielding error in the third inning led to the only run of the game as Curtis falls to 9-3 on the year.
North Georgia (41-20) threatened in the top of the
second as the Saints loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a
two-out infield single by Kevin Morrison. But Wandless got out of
the inning on a called strikeout. Wandless was helped defensively
when shortstop Chris Grandinetti fielded Josh Tate's line drive off
of Wandless' glove and threw Tate out at first for the first out of
USC Aiken (45-15) broke the deadlock in the bottom of the third as Cody McMorris reached on an error to lead off the inning. After Grandinetti hit into a force play, Chad Jacobsen followed with his second double of the game. Ken Raborn grounded out to second to drive in Grandinetti.
Wandless (9-2) overcame four walks in the first three innings by retiring 17 of the final 19 batters he faced. After the leadoff batter reached on an error in the top of the eighth, Wandless sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a pick off.
North Georgia plays Friday at 3 p.m. against the winner of No. 1 seed Mount Olive and No. 6 seed Erskine.
Head Coach Tom Cantrell
Opening Statement: "Not much hitting in this ballgame, both guys pitched real well. You have to give (Wandless) credit. We made a mistake and they were able to capitalize on it. We had some chances, especially early, when Wandless was struggling a little bit, but we didn't get it done. I thought offensively they didn't have a good day either, but we hit way too many fly balls in this park and had a couple of execution things we didn't get done. You have to give credit to both pitchers. I can't say enough about Chris (Curtis) and the job he did. Nine strikeouts and only four hits, two to the player of the year Jacobsen. We were not able to get a big hit. The season is not over for us, we still have to win four baseball games, we just have to win four straight."
On Scott Wandless: He struggled early, but he pitched around it. Not surprised by the effort they got from him. He is one of the top pitchers in the Peach Belt, and he is a heck of a competitor himself. Congratulations to USC Aiken for winning the game."
Adjustments for tomorrow: "We won't do anything different, this is the same team that won the Peach Belt Tournament, same team that has been on a roll. We had a bad day, we didn't hit well, and we were lethargic with the bats. I have a lot of belief in my team, the way they responded the last month I am sure they will come back tomorrow and be ready to go. We will keep right on trucking. Win or lose, you put it behind you and move on to the next one."
Senior pitcher Chris Curtis:
On getting into a groove in the later innings: "After the third inning after they got the one run, coach came out and calmed be back down. He got me back focused on what I needed to be doing, not out there pitching mad, but pitching how I needed to pitch. Once I went back out there I just toughened up and pitched."
On how you felt physically in the last few innings: "I felt like I was getting stronger. Ever since I have been pitching I have been like that. I like to have the ball in my hand as long as I can."
USC Aiken Head Coach Kenny
Opening Statement: "Lot of pitching going on today wasn't there. You could say it wasn't a hitters' ballpark today, or you could say it was a pitchers' park. Scott (Wandless) was unbelievably great. I thought he got stronger as he went, and that was a big key for us. His worst inning was the first, he got a little better and by the fourth, you just knew he was rolling. We got the run in the third inning with Jacobsen getting the big double, and Raborn hits the ground ball to get the run in. Who would have thought that is all we would need, but it was."
On the effort of pitching and defense: "It was tight, you have to make defensive plays. We put a defensive lineup in there today. It worked out okay. You are right, no one would have believed that USC Aiken and North Georgia would have played 1-0. Baseball is a funny game, and luckily we pitched well today."