Senior Zach Alvord’s third-inning grand slam helped lead the Georgia Gwinnett baseball team to a 6-4 victory over San Diego Christian on Saturday for the Grizzlies’ first-ever win at the Avista-NAIA Baseball World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
Alvord hit one of two GGC homers on the day and finished with four RBIs and two runs scored as the Grizzlies (53-12) built a 6-0 lead and hung on late to eliminate the seventh-seeded Hawks (42-20) from the championship.
Grizzlies starter Alex Roberts went 7.1 innings on the mound, striking out six batters and allowing just four hits to improve to 9-2 on the year.
Zeke McGranahan recorded the final five outs over two innings to earn his seventh save and keep the Grizzlies alive in Lewiston.
Georgia Gwinnett now advances to Monday’s Game 9 at 9 a.m. PT/noon ET against the loser of Saturday’s third contest between ninth-seeded Tabor (Kansas) and top-seeded Oklahoma Baptist.
“This is a great feeling to win our first-ever World Series game,” said Grizzlies head coach Brad Stromdahl. “We gave the ball to Alex and he did what he’s done all season long. We were able to get him a lead and get the bats going.”
The Grizzlies opened the scoring with Ty Abbott’s mammoth solo home run in the second inning to right-center, his fourth of the year, to make it 1-0. GGC would tack on another run in the inning with the help of a defensive throwing error. Alvord reached first on an infield single, moved to second on a groundout and scored with two outs when a swinging bunt was thrown in the dirt to first base by the Hawks’ catcher.
Alvord then provided what would be the game-winning blast with the Georgia Gwinnett program’s first-ever grand slam in the third inning.
With one out, Jake Fields and Robbie Payne each singled before Abbott was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A strikeout made it two away, then Alvord stepped up and took the first pitch he saw from Hawks starter Joey Aquino (6-3) over the wall in left field.
With the shot, Alvord tied Abbott as the Grizzlies’ home run leader with four.
“The important thing is that both balls cleared the fence,” said Stromdahl of the Grizzlies’ sixth multi-homer game of the year, which produced a 6-0 lead in the third inning.
The grand slam would account for the final runs of the game for GGC and prove to be the deciding play.
The Hawks scored their first three runs in the sixth inning on a pair of RBI groundouts and a wild pitch.
In the eighth, after a double chased Roberts from the game with one out, an RBI single from Chad Erickson brought San Diego Christian within two runs at 6-4.
McGranahan then finished off the eighth inning and after walking the leadoff man in the ninth, the senior struck out two Hawks looking before getting the final out on a grounder to the right side to nail down the save.
The Grizzlies went error-free defensively for the second straight game at Harris Field.
Bates and Fields each had two of GGC’s 10 hits as the Grizzlies won their eighth straight game when facing elimination this postseason.
“Now we look forward to about 36 hours of rest with some down time and we will get back after it on Monday,” added Stromdahl. “This is what these guys have done to make it here to Lewiston and we have a lot of confidence in this group to keep it going.”