In first season, Dillard takes GCAC Tournament title with two wins on thrilling final day

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Dillard GCAC baseball champions

#2 DILLARD 8 def. #1 RUST 3 | Box Score
(Written by Marcus Bland, GCAC Media Intern)

JACKSON, Miss. – Will a champion be crowned at the end of the game or will there be a decisive winner take all game afterwards? Dillard said the latter.

The Bleu Devils would set the tone early with a double from Kwailty Williams and wild pitch would put Dillard in scoring position in the top of the first. A 4-3 groundout from Jalen Ayers scored Williams and give Dillard the early one run lead. All-GCAC Second Team honoree Stone Teague drove in a run for the Bearcats into left field to tie the game at 1-1.

The score remained tied at one as Rust’s Frederick Perry Jr. and GCAC Pitcher of the Year Jorge Guerra for Dillard pitched solid innings for their respective teams keeping the momentum even until a walk from Khalil Robinson and a double into left center field from Teague put Rust in position to take their first lead of the ballgame. The Bleu Devils escaped the bottom of the third and head into the middle innings tied 1-1.

Aggressive hitting from Dillard’s George Alveraz put a lead-off runner on for the Bleu Devils to begin the top of the fourth. After two consecutive infield groundouts advanced the runner to second and third, a balk from Perry on the mound proved costly as it brought home Alveraz and gave the Bleu Devils a 2-1 lead.

The bottom of the fourth was all Dillard. After giving up a lead-off walk, Guerra made quick work of the rest of the inning as a 4 up, 3 down inning would prove to be a turning point in the Bleu Devils capturing the momentum away from the Bearcats.

Title Game Recap | #2 Dillard University Bleu Devils 5, #1 Rust College Bearcats 2 | Box Score

In this decisive Game Two, it’s winner takes all to be crowned conference champions. The Bleu Devils came in riding off their Game One win and held all the momentum going into this game.

Dylan Scott took the mound for the Bleu Devils looking to help capture Dillard’s first conference championship. The game opened with a quick 1,2,3 top of the first as the Bleu Devils looked to score early and take the lead. Rust’s Xavier Campbell, took the ball for Rust and got out the gates with his own 3 up, 3 down inning to keep the game scoreless after one.

The top of the second featured Rust getting the first baserunners of the game off of two hits. Scott continued to settle in for Dillard, however Shemaar Stapleton reached base for Rust on a walk to load the bases. Scott pitched out of the jam and got out of the inning as both teams were ready to play another low scoring game. A fielding error to begin the bottom of the frame, gave the Bleu Devils their first base runner of the game with Tyler Fitch standing at first. Channing Vernonfollowed with an infield single to put runners on first and second. Campbell bounced back to end the inning as the game remained scoreless.

A fielding error by Dillard’s Ty’Mitchell McCollough opened the third inning with the Bearcats having a runner on base. Aggressive base stealing from Victor Clay, put Rust in scoring position at second. Rust’s Malik Berrien followed Clay and get a line drive double into left field. Scott started to get rattled after hitting GCAC MVP Jalin Thomas, loaded the bases with no outs and gave Rust a chance to strike first in the game. Scott bounced back with a spectacular strikeout, however a catcher’s interference would drive home the first run of the game, giving the Bearcats an early 1-0 lead.

Another strikeout from Scott and a fly out to right field helped the Bleu Devils get out of the inning only down by one. Campbell came out and got two quick outs before another fielding error put another runner on for Dillard. The Bearcats finished the bottom of the third inning quickly to get the Bearcats back up to the plate to begin the middle innings.

The Bleu Devils responded with a quick inning from Scott to keep the score, 1-0 Rust. The bottom of the fourth gave the Bleu Devils a spark as Tyler Fitch was able to reach to give Dillard a base runner. The momentum was still in Rust’s favor as Campbell bounced back with back to back strikeouts to retire the Bleu Devils.

The score remained the same through the top of the fifth as the Bearcats were able to attack the solid pitching from Scott to bring in any runs to extend their lead as the game remained deadlocked at 1-0. Dillard got traffic on the bases to begin the bottom of the fifth with runners on first and second. A groundout from Kwailty Williams advanced the runners. For the second straight game, the Bleu Devils flipped the game on its head as two runs scored on a fielding error to first base from the Bearcats and stole the lead and momentum, now leading 2-1 Bleu Devils.

Rust answered back with a two-run inside the park home run to center field from the junior Shemaar Stapleton in the top of the sixth and the Bearcats were now back out in front 3-2. Scott ran into some trouble trying to finish the inning, as Rust continued to remain aggressive at the plate and on the bases. The Bleu Devils escaped trouble and headed to the bottom of the frame only trailing by one run.

A lead-off hit from Fitch in the bottom of the sixth, looked to spark hope for the Bleu Devils, but a tough break as a bunt attempt was caught back at home for a crucial out in the inning for Rust. Dillard’s Jaylen Davis answered with a single to right field to put runners on first and second and Nicholas Pena drove in Fitch with an RBI single into shallow center field to tie the game at 3-3. Rust got the final out on a 5-3 groundout as the game headed into the back innings with momentum split even between both teams.

Scott pitched a quality seventh inning getting two key strikeouts to retire the Bearcats and swing the momentum in the Bleu Devils favor. Campbell had a quick, quality inning in the bottom of the seventh leaving one runner as the game still remained tied at three.

The eighth inning went quickly for the Bearcats, as Rust couldn’t overcome another quality inning from Scott. Rust went to the bullpen for William Baker to help keep the Bleu Devils off the board. With two consecutives walks given up by Baker, the Bleu Devils were in position to grab the lead. Rust for the second time in the inning went to the bullpen and brought in freshman Olin Evans to work out of the jam. Evans gave up the third consecutive walk of the inning to Davis, loading the bases for the Bleu Devils. The Bleu Devils got a free run as Pena drew the fourth consecutive walk of the inning to put Dillard back in front 4-3. The Bearcats got the force out at home the next play, but another run would come home to score as Evans hit Williams to grow the Bleu Devils lead to two.

A two-run single by Alveraz into right field has started to blow this game wide open for the Bleu Devils, who now lead 7-3. The Bearcats turned to their third pitcher of the inning, Craig Randolph as he surrendered another RBI single to Dillard, extending the Bleu Devils lead to five. Randolph finally got out of the inning, with the Bearcats needing a miracle in the ninth to tie or win the game as Dillard held a commanding 8-3 lead.

The ninth inning was Rust’s last chance as Scott was looking for his third consecutive quality inning. Two quick groundouts to McCollough and Scott would be the first two outs of the inning as Dillard was one out away from a championship. Khalil Robinson came to the plate as the Bearcats last chance and drew a full count walk to start putting traffic on the bases for Rust.

Teague came to plate hoping to deliver a run, but a fly out to Dillard’s Emmanuel Taveras would be the final out as the Dillard University Bleu Devils win the 2023 Hope Credit Union GCAC Baseball Championship after coming back in the sixth and taking the lead in eighth to beat the Rust Bearcats by a final of 8-3.

With the victory, the Dillard University Bleu Devils have won the 2023 Hope Credit Union Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Baseball Championship and receive an automatic bid to the NAIA Championship Tournament. Opening rounds of the 66th Annual National Baseball Championship will be held May 15-18 at campus sites, and the World Series May 26 – June 2 at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.

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