Grizzlies Stand Atop NAIA Baseball World

LEWISTON, Idaho – Tournament MVP Hunter Dollander pitched seven shutout innings and Nick Barnes and Chase Evans drove in two runs each to lead Georgia Gwinnett to its first Avista NAIA World Series title with an 8-4 win over Central Methodist (Mo.) Thursday night at Lewis-Clark State College’s Harris Field.

The Grizzlies, who were seeded fifth in the 10-team double-elimination tournament, went undefeated at 5-0 and finish the year at 43-7. Central Methodist, the No. 2 seed, was making its first ever appearance in the tournament and finished the year 48-8.

“It’s about trusting your guys and trusting the process,” Georgia Gwinnett coach Jeremy Sheetinger said about his philosophy for the season. “There wasn’t a worry in my mind, one moment today, about what was going to happen. I knew this group, once they put on that gold jersey, I knew it was a championship moment for us. It’s about trusting the process.”

Dollander, a senior right-hander, enjoyed his second strong outing of the tournament. He took a five-hit shutout into the eighth inning before he eventually gave up an earned run and was replaced. Dollander finished with nine strikeouts and two walks.

“I just wanted to compete and get the guys to the dugout and give ourselves a chance,” Dollander said. “This is like a dream. That’s all I can really say.”

JD Stubbs started the scoring for the Grizzlies with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, while Evans added an RBI double for a 2-0 lead.

Georgia Gwinnett added solo runs in the third and fourth innings for a 4-0 advantage. Kyle Harvey drove in a run with a single in the third, while Cord Johnson had an RBI single in the fourth.

The Grizzlies doubled their lead to 8-0 in the sixth with five hits. Evans and Howell each singled in a run, while Barnes doubled in a pair.

The Eagles finally chased Dollander in the eighth when an error and a grounder by Mason Schwellenback scored a pair of runs. Reliever Hunter Caudelle issued a pair of bases-loaded walks before Myles McKisic, the Grizzlies’ second baseman, made a sliding catch on a fly ball down the right-field line to end the threat.

McKisic had four of Georgia Gwinnett’s 15 hits.

Sergio Macias and Grant Victor had two hits apiece for the Eagles.

“Not yet,” Sheetinger said about whether the national title has sunk in. “I’m happy to watch the reaction of this group. I really need to see that dogpile video.  When I get that vision, it is really going to hit home. I went to celebrate with our coaching staff because of their dedication to our team, but when I see that dog pile and these 25 guys, it’s going to be pretty special.”