Jaguars win GCAA championship as Parden blanks Middle Georgia
When the Jaguars come down from Cloud 9, they can begin packing summer clothes for St. George, Utah.
Georgia Perimeter College shut out Middle Georgia State College 4-0 Saturday to win the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association tournament championship at Strong Rock Christian School in Locust Grove.
The Jaguars (21-14) will travel to St. George for the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament May 15-18.
Lyndsey Parden pitched her fourth shutout of the season, second against Middle Georgia, while the Jaguars continued a parade of power at the plate—12 hits, four extra-base hits—and produced assorted defensive highlights to win the championship.
“I told them prior to the game that all the work they had put in since last August came down to today's championship game, so don't give it away, but take it,” said head coach Ken Deyton. “Those words didn't compare to the determination in their eyes. I knew I was in the company of region champions before the game started.”
Parden (13-4) limited the Knights to five singles while striking out three and issuing two walks. It was a sterling performance considering she pitched three games, 21 innings, in three days, and Middle Georgia’s powerful lineup had a good look at her Friday.
Earlier this month Parden shut out Middle 2-0 and she held the Knights to four singles in Friday’s 2-1 win that sent GPC into the title game.
Jessie Romines led the Jaguars at the plate Saturday with three hits in three trips, and Savannah Cook punctuated their power display with a monster home run.
Helping her own cause, Parden led off the second inning with a double. Romines drove in pinch runner Rachel Martinez for the Jags’ first run with a long double to the right-center field gap.
After Barbara Rego drew a walk and Madi Case advanced the runners with a bunt, Sam Maycock hit a screaming grounder past third to score Romines. Abby Hulsey plated Rego with a fielder’s choice, and the Jaguars had an early 3-0 lead.
Next inning Cook crushed a line drive home run to left that might have chipped the stone wall 20 feet beyond the home run fence. It was her third homer of the season, and the Jaguars’ fourth of the tournament.
In the fifth inning, Hulsey doubled and Maegan Coddington singled to start another threat, but they were stranded. That represented the down side of the victory—GPC left 11 runners on base.
Case finished with two hits in three at-bats and Coddington was two-for-four.
Middle Georgia (33-19) reached second base only twice, and Hulsey ended a fifth-inning threat with an eye-popping double-play throw to third from right field. Caitlin Greer led off the frame by reaching first on an error, and Adele Harrison drew a walk with one out. Jenna Hanson hit a fly ball to deep right, and Greer tagged up at second for what seemed a certain advance to third base.
But Hulsey fired a no-hop Jason-Heyward-type rocket to third baseman Romines, beating Greer by 15 feet—and photographic evidence exists to prove it.
Other defensive plays included Romines’ over-the-shoulder basket catch on a foul ball behind third base, Maycock spearing a liner with a high leap and Parden knocking down a scorching line drive by Harrison and throwing her out at first.
“Defensively we were stellar all season, making only four errors in the last 12 games,” Deyton noted.
Alyssa Amerson took the loss for the Knights, striking out one while allowing six hits, a walk and four earned runs. Reliever Katie Turner also gave up six hits but kept the Jaguars off the scoreboard.
“Our opponents were a bunch of fighters,” Deyton said. “I tip my hat to Coach (Ken) Phillips and his team—as always they are a class act.”
Middle Georgia defeated Darton State College in the losers’ bracket elimination game Saturday morning, earning the noon meeting with the Jaguars in the finale. Darton, ranked No. 20 in the latest NJCAA poll, bowed out with a 37-15 record.
GCAA commissioner David Elder presented the championship trophy to the Jaguars in a post-game ceremony and gave the coaches and players pink commemorative hats.
Parden was named tournament MVP, and Cook, Hulsey and Romines joined her on the all-tournament team.
The Jaguars have won three fast-pitch conference tournaments, beginning in 2003. They went to nationals in 2010, losing two, and in 2007, when they finished fifth. The Jaguars came through the losers’ bracket to beat Middle Georgia twice in the 2007 conference championship round.
All games of the NJCAA national tournament games will be video webcast. GPC games will have links at www.gpc.edu/athletic under “Game Webcasts.”
Tournament box scores will be available at the GCAA website softball schedule