(photo: sophomore Ashley Beyke; courtesy Rod Reilly/GGC)
The Georgia Gwinnett softball team split two games Thursday in its first-ever day of postseason action on day one of the 2014 Association of Independent Institutions Softball championship tournament in Lawrenceville.
The fourth-seeded Grizzlies took down fifth-seeded Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.) by a 5-2 score before falling to top-seeded and NAIA No. 3 LSU Alexandria in a wild, 14-13, eight-inning game in the nightcap.
The Grizzlies held 5-1 and 10-7 leads over the Generals before rallying with three runs in their final at-bat to force extra innings.
Georgia Gwinnett (39-9-1) will square off against third-seeded Houston-Victoria Friday at 1 p.m. in an elimination game at the Grizzly Softball Complex.
“I’m very encouraged,” said Grizzlies head coach Kat Ihlenburg. “This team lives for these moments and they love them. One inning didn’t go our way in the second game and as a result it didn’t come out the way it should have. I’m proud of these girls and we look forward to doing the things we need to do to keep this season going.”
In other action Thursday, sixth-seeded British Columbia provided a pair of upsets to advance in the winners’ bracket. The Thunderbirds defeated third-seeded Houston-Victoria by a 7-6 score in a back-and-forth game one before dominating second-seeded Cal State San Marcos, 11-5, in game three.
Friday’s other scheduled matchups include Lindenwood-Belleville against Cal State San Marcos in an elimination game at 11 a.m., while British Columbia will take on LSU Alexandria in the 4 p.m. winners’ bracket contest.
A.I.I. Game Two- GGC 5, Lindenwood-Belleville 2
Senior Heaven Hinton drove in a pair of runs to lead the GGC attack and sophomore pitcher Ashley Beyke held the Lynx offense in check with a complete game effort to give the Grizzlies the win in their postseason debut.
Beyke finished with four strikeouts and just one walk over 7.0 innings, allowing only one earned run on six hits.
Freshman Mary Burk added two of the Grizzlies’ six hits.
The Lynx (32-22-1) opened the scoring with a run in the top of the second inning, but the Grizzlies bounced right back in the bottom of the inning with four runs. After three singles loaded the bases, Marlee Morales drew a walk to drive in Haley Thompson. Cassidy Littlefield was hit by a pitch to put GGC ahead, 2-1.
Hinton followed with a bases-loaded walk and GGC scored a final run on an error with a ground ball to third base as the Grizzlies pulled ahead, 4-1.
After the Lynx scored once in the top of the fourth, GGC once again responded. Halley Ingram belted a one-out triple to left-center and Hinton drove her in with an RBI double down the left field line as GGC regained its three-run lead at 5-2.
Beyke preserved the three-run cushion the rest of the way to pick up her 20th win of the year and put the Grizzlies in the winners’ bracket.
A.I.I. Game Four- LSU Alexandria 14, GGC 13 (8 innings)
The Grizzlies pushed the nation’s No. 3 squad to the edge in the extra-inning slugfest, but despite 13 runs on 12 hits, GGC could not hang out to a pair of leads in eventually falling by one.
Five different Grizzlies had a two-hit game, including Littlefield who scored three times to lead all players.
Beyke (20-7) appeared in relief and allowed just one earned run over 5.0 innings.
The Generals (30-3) picked up a run in the first inning, but the damage was cut short as GGC won an appeal on a runner leaving third base early to end the threat.
A five-run third inning surge pushed GGC in front. The Grizzlies tied the game by taking advantage of a first-and-third situation in the third inning, forcing a throwing error into center field to allow Mary Burk to score. Hinton later doubled to score Littlefield as the Grizzlies took a 2-1 lead. Ashleigh Simmons then delivered a two-out, bases-loaded triple into the right field corner to score three runs and hand GGC a 5-1 advantage.
The lead was short-lived after a six-run bottom of the inning for LSUA. A three-run homer by Taylor Simon brought the Generals back within one at 5-4 and a string of hits allowed LSUA to jump back in front, 7-5.
Again, the Grizzlies answered. GGC loaded the bases on three straight walks in the fourth, and another walk to Ingram made it 7-6. Hinton ripped a single through the left side to score Morales and tie the game. A walk to Fones scored Littlefield as GGC went back ahead, 8-7. Thompson lifted a sacrifice fly to shallow center field for another GGC run and Heather Kilar’s two-out single scored Hinton to make it 10-7.
Following a two-out throwing error in the bottom of the inning, the Generals tallied six unearned runs and went up by a 13-10 margin through four innings.
The scoring slowed in the fifth and sixth innings, and GGC entered the final inning still down three, when the bats got going again. Kilar trimmed the deficit right away with a leadoff home run to left field, her first of the season to make it 13-11. After a walk, Littlefield drove a triple into the gap in right-center to score pinch runner Brittany Bruns to pull GGC within one. Then, Ingram put a fly ball into center that allowed Littlefield to score on a sacrifice fly play at the plate to tie the game, 13-13.
The Grizzlies then shut down the Generals in the bottom of the inning to send the contest to extra innings.
GGC could not muster another score in the top of the eighth, however, and the Generals tallied the winning run in the bottom of the inning on a one-out, RBI double to score a runner from second.
The game featured 33 total hits, 27 runs and 13 runners left on base.