Marion, Ind. – Battling weather, errors, mental mistakes and an outing that had them in the consolation bracket from day one certainly tested the metal of Georgetown College baseball. The team passed all difficulties with flying colors and for only the program's second time booked a date to the NAIA World Series.
Georgetown won the championship of the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round final 11-4 over Mount Vernon Nazarene University. GC has not been to the World Series since 1988. Play runs May 23-30 in Lewiston, Idaho.
The No. 5 Tigers (46-9) needed at least 27 innings of baseball on the final day of opening round play – no mercy-run rule games allowed. They took care of business with a double-digit win of game one over Spring Arbor University – the team that knocked them into the consolation bracket. GC then needed to beat Mount Vernon Nazarene twice. The first one was a rally win, but Georgetown left nothing to chance in final championship game.
The Tigers clawed out of the gates and did not look back.
"I can't say enough about what this team did today," said GC coach Micah Baumfeld. "My guys have shown a lot of heart throughout this entire opening round. Sitting out a whole day Tuesday, being an hour from being eliminated without a second game and then needing three wins on the final day, with every issue they met the challenge and I couldn't be prouder."
His team even played an extra-inning affair to force the if-necessary championship game. Trey Gross delivered in that one. In the bottom of the 10th, the junior roped a walk-off double to right center. The momentum carried over and the team scored two in the first inning, added three more in the second and it was all icing on the cake from there.
"The emotional high could have been rough if we didn't come out strong," said GC senior Martin Lemus. "We knew that and came out to take care of business. Sometimes being the visitor is very beneficial. Trey's our nine-hole hitter and we just made like the first game never ended. Duran got us going and we rolled from there."
But that trial was only the final bump in Georgetown's long road.
Rain washed out all but one game Tuesday and was threating to cancel Wednesday's play. That would have meant the tournament committee would dismiss the consolation bracket and teams with a loss would go home. However, a window was found, the Tigers got their game in and life was given once again to the GC season.
All other opening rounds wrapped up Thursday as well, and the 10 remaining teams will meet at Lewiston, Idaho for the NAIA World Series. Two of the 10 teams are from the Mid-South Conference as Cumberland University won the Kingsport bracket.
Edwin Santiago had a rough first inning. MVNU started with a double and after his first of nine strikeouts on the day a pair of singles trimmed the lead to one, 2-1. Georgetown did what good teams need to do, though, and responded immediately. The Tigers tacked on three more runs to break the Cougars back.
Santiago went on cruise control from there. He found a rhythm and went the full nine for only the second time this season. He runs his record to 5-3.
Georgetown also supplied more than enough offensive fire. The team added some huge insurance runs in the sixth as it batted around and plated five more. GC added another run in the ninth for good measure.
There were a few times during the first game with Mount Vernon that it appeared the Tigers had won and lost. The Cougars pounced early and led 3-1 for most of the day. However, GC broke through with three runs in the seventh to grab a lead. A few innings before that, a sacrifice fly appeared to pull the game to a one-run deficit for GC. However, a choice to take third ended in a third out before the run crossed the plate – one run wiped off the board for the Orange & Black. It was not the only one. In the bottom of the ninth, game tied 4-4, bases were loaded and with one out. A long sacrifice fly seemed to end the game, but a Tiger was caught off second and the double play occurred before the winning run.
Both mistakes were long forgotten when Gross crushed the no-doubt, winning shot.