March 20, 2010

Wilkinson's eighth inning single gives GSW split with USC Aiken

By CHRIS WHITAKER
Americus Times-Recorder

AMERICUS — Megan Wilkinson has delivered again.

Wilkinson had two hits in Saturday’s Game 2 against USC Aiken, and it was her second one that ended the game.

Scoreless through seven innings, Wilkinson roped a two-out single to right center that scored Jessica Martin as Georgia Southwestern escaped with a 1-0 win.

It was her second walk-off hit of the season; her three-run home run beat Emmanuel on Feb. 20.

The Lady Hurricanes (12-23, 2-10 PBC) lost the first game with Aiken 2-0.

“There’s no other way to put it, this is a big win for us,” said coach Eddie Ward. “We’ve been so close, and our team is so much better than what our record reflects. We have so much better talent, but the execution has been poor, and I believe quite frankly, our kids have not believed in themselves. Maybe today they saw it and can believe they can beat teams in the Peach Belt.”

The win stopped a 5-game skid, but GSW has lost 14 of 16 games.

Aiken (13-14, 5-7) stranded nine in the second game while GSW left seven on. Neither team got a runner to third in the game until the eighth.

Jessica Martin (3-7) got the win by pitching a complete game, allowing five hits.

GSW has averaged 1.7 runs over the last 16 games, and Ward said his team hasn’t gotten the small ball aspect down pat.

“When we get a runner on, we cannot get that sac bunt down,” he said. “We’ve worked on it and worked on it. I think it has to do with pitch selection and a lot to do with confidence. When we come to the ball park, we need to come expecting to win. I think our demeanor and the way we have done things, it’s like we expect to lose or we find a way to lose. I think we may have grown up a little bit in the second game. I saw in their eyes a determination to win the ball game, and they did with two outs.”

Mariko Nomura (5-13) pitched the first game, allowing one earned run on four hits. She is the only pitcher with an earned run average under 3.00. Ward has used her as much as he can, but said others have to step up, including Martin.

“The problem with our pitching is we’re not spotting the ball,” he said. “Mariko is the only pitcher who is consistently hitting her spots. But she doesn’t have the stamina to throw every ball game. We’ve got to have someone else. Everybody else has had their fair shot.”
Ward said he went with his gut in Game 2, starting Martin instead of Nomura.

“Jess is clearly the best pitcher we had last year as far as results and spotting the ball, but she’s struggled this year,” he said. “I really thought she had the hot hand today, and she proved it. She kept them off, and her change-up was off the chain.”

While finishing around the middle of the conference is out of the question, Ward now looks to be in the top eight to make the conference tournament with eight PBC games remaining against No. 1 North Georgia, Lander, Armstrong Atlantic and Columbus State.

He said GSW needs to finish ahead of Lander, Columbus State and Georgia College.

“Our tournament hopes are in our hands,” said Ward.

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