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GAME 12: Grizzlies put Bulldogs on a leash

May 28—In a winners' bracket showdown between two of the last four Avista NAIA World Series champions, it was the 2021-champion Georgia Gwinnett that defeated 2019-banner-hoisting Tennessee Wesleyan in a battle of Series heavyweights.

Grizzlies slugger Ajay Sczepkowski hit a pair of home runs, Caden Smith added another one and No. 2 seed Georgia Gwinnett defeated No. 6 Tennessee Wesleyan 12-6 on Monday night at Harris Field in front of 1,517 spectators.

"It was definitely a familiar foe," Georgia Gwinnett coach Jeremy Sheetinger said of facing Tennessee Wesleyan for the fifth time this season. "We've seen them enough; we have a lot of respect for their program, knew it was going to be a great ball game and one we were both going to have to go toe-to-toe with."

Bulldogs burst out to early lead

A pair of two-RBI singles in the bottom of the first gave Tennessee Wesleyan (41-17) a quick lead.

After loading the bases with their first three batters, Evan Magill's single through the right side scored Braxton Turner and Jack Stevens.

Moments later, Daniel Stewart dropped a single into right field to score Magill and Marco Martinez.

Just like that, Tennessee Wesleyan led 4-0.

It didn't last.

Sczepkowski goes yard ... and then does it again

Sczepkowski's first home run scored three runs to give Georgia Gwinnett (53-7) its first lead of the game. His second long bomb gave the Grizzlies the cushion they needed to hold onto it.

It took just half a second for the senior center fielder to know his ball was headed out of the park in left field for a three-run home run and a 6-4 Georgia Gwinnett lead in the seventh.

The senior threw his bat to the dirt and pumped his fists before rounding the bases and stomping on home plate to score the final of six straight runs by the Grizzlies.

In the next inning, Sczepkowski went yard again for two more RBI and a 10-5 Georgia Gwinnett advantage.

Back-to-back complete games

Georgia Gwinnett pitcher Ben Harris (11-1) fanned eight batters in a complete-game performance on the mound.

It was the second straight complete game for the Grizzlies after Kaleb Hill went all nine innings in a 5-2 victory against Indiana Southeast on Saturday.

The back-to-back complete games were the first by a World Series team since Cumberland (Tenn.) accomplished the feat in 2014.

"The two biggest words in our program are 'trust' and 'love,' and to trust Ben Harris, who threw an absolute gem of a ballgame and hung I believe six zeros in a row to give us a shot to breathe offensively (was huge)," Sheetinger said.

Not their first meeting

These two programs are quite familiar with each other — and Georgia Gwinnett owns heavy bragging rights.

The Grizzlies and Bulldogs met four times during the regular season, with Georgia Gwinnett winning three of the four contests, including two in a three-game series in April.

The scores were 7-1, 11-8, 9-7 (Tennessee Wesleyan's lone win) and 5-1.

Monday's victory improved Georgia Gwinnett to 4-1 against TWU, and the two teams might meet each other a sixth time if the Bulldogs can battle through the losers' bracket.

Up next

Georgia Gwinnett will play fifth-seeded Reinhardt (Ga.) at 6:15 p.m. today in the winners' bracket.

Tennessee Wesleyan faces top-seeded Southeastern (Fla.) at 3:05 p.m. in a loser-out contest.

"To be in this game (tonight) is exactly where we saw ourselves," Sheetinger said. "It's just a matter of showing up in the moment and making sure we put ourselves in it."

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, swiebe@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.

AT A GLANCE

Georgia Gwinnett 12

Tennessee Wesleyan 6

STARS OF THE GAME

Georgia Gwinnett's Ajay Sczepkowski totaled five RBI on two home runs and was responsible for eight total runs, scoring three himself. His three-run homer in the seventh gave the Grizzlies their first lead of the game, 6-4. He also made a catch at the wall in center field for an out in the ninth.

Grizzlies pitcher Ben Harris tossed an eight-strikeout complete game.

QUOTE OF NOTE

"Best compliment I can give them is they're the toughest team I've ever coached. Their ability to go down early and take some punches, and deliver some punches back, and deliver the haymakers there at the end — I can't say enough about our guys right now." — Georgia Gwinnett coach Jeremy Sheetinger.