GPC knocked out of regional tournament

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

COVINGTON -- For Georgia Perimeter College, the similarities between its games Friday and Saturday are kind of eerie.

The Jaguars, who were eliminated Saturday from the NJCAA East Central District Tournament due to a 4-3 losers bracket loss to Columbia State Community College, gave up three runs in the ninth inning, just as they did in Friday's tournament-opening 10-9 loss to Walters State Community College.

On Friday, GPC (42-17) had a chance to win the game in the ninth inning when pinch-hitter Jacob Johnson -- who came up with the bases loaded and two outs -- drove a deep shot that was snagged at the outfield fence. On Saturday, Columbia State's No. 9 hitter also sent a long drive to left field, but his hit cleared the fence -- and the bases -- to give the Chargers a come-from-behind victory.

"We were up 3-1 with one out in the bottom of the ninth and their guy hits a walk-off, three-run home run," GPC assistant coach Stewart Bailey said. "We were up the whole game and were playing great and one swing of the bat beat us. It was a heartbreaking loss."

Columbia State (34-15), which lost to South Georgia on Friday, will play the loser of Saturday's game between South Georgia and Walters State at 11 a.m. today. The winner of that game will face the South Georgia-Walters State winner at 3 p.m. today, with an "if" game set for Monday.

Bailey said that thanks to the pitching of Columbia State's 6-foot-7 right-hander Clint Wright, the Jaguars weren't able to generate much offense. First baseman Christian Van Camp led the way with two hits and two RBIs and was followed by outfielder Kenny Straus (two hits, one run), Kendall Lacey (one hit, one run) and Jamie McMillan, who drove in a run on an error by the Chargers' shortstop.

GPC's Clay Gardner got the start for the Jaguars and pitched 81/3 innings before turning it over to closer James Connell, who was tagged with the loss after giving up the game-ending blast.

"Clay pitched his heart out," Bailey said. "We really thought we'd worked our way back into the tournament. James Connell has been our closer all year and he's been great all year. But it just didn't happen for him (Saturday). It's a tough way to end the game and the season. Everybody was just stunned."

Although GPC won't be competing next week in the 54th annual NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., the Jaguars can still look back on a successful season in which they won the GCAA regular season championship and the conference tournament and made their first appearance in the regional tournament since 1999.

Saturday's loss also marked the final game for GPC head coach Danny Blue, who completed his sixth year at the helm after coaching for nearly three decades at Heritage High School. Bailey, who has worked as an assistant at GPC for the last four seasons, will succeed Blue for the 2012 campaign.