The Delta State University Statesmen defeated the West Alabama Tigers 6-3 in the championship game of the Gulf South Conference Tournament to win their second straight GSC Title and 14th overall here Tuesday evening at Harvey Stadium-Ferriss Field.
To win the GSC, the Statesmen (41-11) had to overcome some adversity in the tournament. Delta State overcame a 16-3 deficit against Valdosta State in a game that saw Valdosta hit two grand slam home runs in a 13-run fourth inning to win 19-17 on Monday to finish pool play 3-0 putting them in the title game.
In Tuesday’s championship game, DSU reliever Brady Chambley suffered an arm injury after throwing a pitch in the bottom of the fifth inning, forcing him to leave the game. DSU’s Peyton White (4-1) entered the game and ended up throwing two and two thirds solid innings of relief to hold West Alabama at bay and earn the win. He gave up one run on two hits with a strikeout, a walk and two hit batters. West Alabama fell to 34-19.
“I think they showed their toughness, no question about that,” Delta State head baseball Mike Kinnison said about his team Tuesday evening. “The way we had to come back yesterday from a lot of adversity, it wasn’t about coaching. It was just about their guts and their character.
“We didn’t play our best tonight but good teams find ways to win when they don’t play their best. There were a lot of things (that happened). You see one of your guys go down with an injury and we left some runners on base, but they kept working and kept grinding away. While it wasn’t our most complete game, it was certainly good enough to win against a good West Alabama club.”
DSU got some great production all through out the order Monday and Tuesday.
Against Valdosta State, DSU drilled six home runs and finished with 19 hits. Emil Ellis drilled three hits including two home runs with six RBIs and two runs scored to lead the Statesmen, followed by Justin Nussbaum with two hits including a home run with four RBIs and two runs scored, Zack Shannon with two hits including a home run with two RBIs and two runs, Juwan Burney with three hits including a home run with three runs scored, Clay Casey with two hits including a home run with three runs scored, Jason Popovich with two hits including a double with a RBI and two runs scored, Brian Lane with two hits, a RBI and a run and Nick Morgan with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.
DSU threw five pitchers with Jonathan Lindsey getting the win as he gave up two runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts in four and two-thirds innings of work. Shannon recorded his first save of the year as he tossed a scoreless ninth, striking out one and walking one.
Against West Alabama, Shannon put DSU on top in a big way in the top of the third as he crushed a three-run home run to give DSU a 3-0 lead.
“That gave us some breathing room and put us out (in front) a little bit,” Kinnison said. “He (Shannon) had a good tournament.”
Through out the course of the game, West Alabama threatened but DSU came up with some big plays on defense. In the bottom of the third with runners on first and second with one out and one run in, Taylor Stafford hit a line drive that was caught by Shannon who was able to get the runner on first out to turn the unassisted double play.
In the bottom of the fourth with one runner on base and one out, Brock Montgomery hit a ground ball to Ellis at second. Ellis made the throw to Nussbaum at short to get one out, and Nussbaum threw out Montgomery at first to get the inning ending double play.
In the bottom of the fifth, Stafford hit into his second double play of the game with Ellis throwing out Nick Delgado at short and Nussbaum throwing out Stafford at first to end the inning again with DSU up 3-2.
Delta State got some insurance in the top of the seventh. With the bases loaded, Clay Casey hit a ball into the outfield that had two West Alabama fielders colliding in an attempt to make the catch. Neither fielder was able to get control of the ball, and Casey ended up on second with a bases clearing double to increase DSU’s lead to 6-2.
After West Alabama scored a run in the bottom of the eighth, DSU took a 6-3 lead into the ninth inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, West Alabama tried one more time to get a rally start. Stafford drilled a one-out, single to give the Tigers a base runner. The next batter, Luke Phillips, hit a ground ball to Ellis at second. Ellis made the throw to Nussbaum at short once again. Stafford made a hard slide into second to try and brake up the double play. Stafford was out at second and was then called for runner interference, which meant Phillips was called out to end the inning and the game as DSU players hit the field to celebrate.
All total on the evening, DSU’s defense was credited with four double plays and didn’t commit an error.
DSU had four players, Shannon, Ellis, Nussbaum and Tre Hobbs, named to the GSC All-Tournament team with Shannon being named most outstanding player.
“Pitchers hopefully get those balls on the ground and we turn it if it’s hit right at us,” Kinnison said about the team’s ability to make plays. “That’s the nature of baseball. You’re thankful when it comes right to you. Both of our middle infielders (Nussbaum and Ellis) made the all-tournament team. They played great all four games. They were a big part of what we did. Offensively and defensively, they played really well.”
In the title game, Popovich drilled two hits and scored a run, Shannon nailed a home run, drove in three runs and scored twice, Casey tagged a double and drove in three runs, Ellis tagged a hit and scored twice and John Russell tagged a hit. Russell also played well on defense at catcher, while Jamell Newsom made two nice catches in left field to aid DSU’s defense.
The GSC Title gives DSU an automatic berth in the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament. The tournament is scheduled to start on May 19 with the times, opponents and location to be announced on Sunday at 9 p.m. at www.ncaa.com.