Marietta, Ga. – The Marietta Patriots clinched their spot the Sun Belt League playoffs with a doubleheader sweep of the Brookhaven Bucks 5-2 and 3-2 Monday night at Jackie Smallwood Field.
Brandon Grover led the way for the Patriots with three hits, including a home run in game one, and three RBI’s for the Patriots, while Matthew Vaccaro singled in both games to extend his current hitting streak to nine games.
“We swept the Bucks,” said Pats head coach Gil Navarro. “That is not an easy feat. Those guys are hard; those guys are good ball players, and we got the job done today. I was really excited about that.”
With the sweep, Marietta improved to 13-14 and clinched the fourth and final spot in the Sun Belt League Playoffs after the Gwinnett Tides lost both of their games against Atlanta tonight.
GAME ONE (Marietta 5, Brookhaven 2)
After Nate Stinson walked to lead off the fourth inning, Brandon Grover smacked Austin Hunter’s (1-1) first pitch over the right field wall to give Marietta a 2-0 lead.
In the fifth inning, Devin Billardello reached on a throwing error by the shortstop. A pass ball and a single by Trevor Austin moved Billardello to third. That set up a successful double steal in which Austin stole second and Billardello stole home to increase Marietta’s lead to 3-0.
The Patriots added two more runs on two errors in the sixth to make it 5-0 Pats. Connor Stutts hit a two-run homer in the seventh to cut the Pats' lead to 5-2, but Matthew Swain retired the last three Bucks batters to end the game.
Justin Freeman (2-0) picked up the victory in his first start of the season for the Patriots. The right-handed rising senior from Southern University pitched five innings and allowed no runs on two hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
“The last couple outings (Freeman) had were really impressive,” said Navarro on his decision to start Freeman in game one. “He had really started working on that changeup of his, and his fastball looked good. I gave it a long hard though and said, ‘Let’s give him a shot and see what happens,’ and it worked out.”
GAME TWO (Marietta 3, Brookhaven 2)
With the game tied 2-2 in the seventh, Trey Vanderpool walked, stole second, and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Joe Stucky then grounded out to third and Stephen Cullen drew an intentional walk before Randy Guevarez brought home the winning run with a single through the left side on a 2-1 pitch from Dylan Biumi (0-1).
“I told Randy to keep his head in and keep focused towards the field,” said Coach Navarro on what he told Guevarez prior to his game-winning single. “He put it on the ground, and it went right through, so it was good.”
Will Griffin pitched six innings in his fifth start of the season for Marietta. The rising senior from the University of New Orleans allowed no runs on three hits with eight strikeouts and a walk, but did not factor into the decision.
Marietta jumped out to a 2-0 lead with an RBI double by Brandon Grover in the first and a single by Matthew Vaccaro in the sixth. That was the score when Alex Watkins (1-0) came on to pitch for the Patriots in the seventh. Watkins struck out Daino Deas, but then allowed a bloop single from Jacob Gassert into right field before Connor Stutts tied the game with his league-leading eighth home run of the season. The Bucks had the winning run on third as Zavier Lushington drew a hit-by-pitch and stole two bases, but Brett Olson grounded out to end the inning.
Marietta is back in action at Jackie Smallwood Field on Tuesday, July 24th, as they take on the Alpharetta Aviators at 7 p.m.