Mebane goes yard in 9th bringing Peach Belt crown, NCAA D-II bid to Bobcats

May 10—Just give the heart of the batting order one more chance.

That was the hope for Georgia College & State University baseball late in Friday's Game 2 of the Peach Belt Conference championship series. Already leading the series 1-0, the Bobcats were silenced for several innings by Flagler College's Cooper Smith, and the Saints were eyeing a third and deciding game on John Kurtz Field.

But down 4-0 after the top of the eighth inning, the Bobcats got two runs in the bottom half thanks to No. 8 hitter Mason Poole and leadoff man Gabe Wuerth. Even though the turn didn't end favorably for the host team, it still meant the likes of Brandon Bellflower and Matthew Mebane would get a chance to swing in the ninth.

It helped matters that Owen Thomas, the freshman, pitched a scoreless top of the ninth in relief of starter Bradley Wilson. That kept the score at 4-2 in favor of the Saints going into the home half.

Mebane, with nobody out, hit a two-run home run giving GCSU a walk-off 5-4 win, the Peach Belt championship and a chance to play even more baseball in the NCAA Division II southeastern regional.

It was a two-run home run, which means the Bobcats did get a run prior to the blast. And a strange run it was for Smith and Flagler to surrender.

Freshman of the Year Braeden Smith led off with a single. Bellflower, in his last game for his Milledgeville hometown team in Milledgeville, also singled. That advanced Smith to third base.

Flagler's pitcher made a meaningless attempt to get Smith out with a pick-off throw. It held more meaning for GCSU as it was a bad throw allowing Smith to score.

Mebane, GCSU's top home run hitter for 2024 with 17, may have had one negative thought in that the error cost him an RBI. But's it's certain he took the victory.

Wilson gave coach Nolan Belcher eight complete innings on the mound Friday. Flagler scored all four runs off him, all earned, on seven hits and Wilson struck out two and walked two. Cooper Smith gave up a total of 10 hits in eight innings plus, did not walk a hitter and fanned seven.

The game was a scoreless duel until the top of the fourth. Flagler took its first lead of the series and gave GCSU its largest deficit of the PBC playoffs by scoring three runs. Catcher Jesse Sullivan led off with a single, but the Saints had just one runner in scoring position with two outs when Wilson issued a walk and Matthew Burke singled to end the 0-0 deadlock. Bryce Fitzgerald's double brought in two more.

The Bobcats were punchless through seven innings with just three hits. It became a 4-0 game in the top of the seventh from Sullivan's two-out solo home run.

Belcher's club saved the best for the ending. In the bottom of the eighth, Cam McNearney and Mason Poole had consecutive doubles to end the shutout bid. Catcher Brent Burford reached, then Wuerth singled to make it 4-2. Burford was throw out at third on that hit, and Wuerth was caught stealing to end the frame.

Game 1

Sophomore pitcher John Luke Glanton showed some vulnerability on the mound after a recent stretch of dominating outings, but he still went eight complete on Thursday and protected an early lead enough to see GCSU take a 1-0 series lead on the Saints. The Bobcats bats were much more active at the start with two runs in both the first and second inning, and the final score was 6-4 with Lex Kenny earning a one-inning save in the ninth.

Glanton gave up 11 hits in eight innings, the most safeties for an opponent since February. Flagler left 13 runners on base Thursday, 12 with Glanton at work. He gave up all four runs, all earned, and walked five with four strikeouts. Three of the whiffs ended innings.

Evan Cowan's two-run single in the bottom of the first came with the bases loaded. Catcher Rand Bestermann's double after a lead-off error in the bottom of the second made it 3-0. The catcher would later score on Smith's sacrifice fly.

Glanton cruised through three shutout innings until he found some control issues in the fourth. With two outs and one Saint on base, he issued two walks to fill the bags. Caden Kresak's first-pitch infield hit got Flagler on the board at 4-1, but three were left on when it ended.

The Bobcats got the run back in the home fifth thanks to a balk called with two outs and Cowan on third base. It was a 6-1 lead for the hosts in the sixth as Wuerth led off with a single and scored on Mebane's two-out double.

Glanton produced two scoreless innings until the Flagler bats really heated up beginning with the seventh. Three hits in a row came with two outs, the first being a ball ruled a trap and not a great diving catch from McNearney in centerfield. Sullivan and Taylor Clapp then got another run on the board.

That was it for the seventh, but in the eight there were three hits and two walks for two runs. Trey Newland and Mason Gray drove in the runs, but Glanton got his last strikeout with the bases full.

Kenny set down three in a row, but not until Payton Palladino led off the ninth with a deep double.