Augusta State catcher Sam Barth makes the tag on Armstrong Atlantic's David Harriman in Game 1 of the teams' double header Sunday. The Jaguars swept the Pirates 5-2 and 4-3.
Senior Day proved to be the perfect panacea for Augusta State's struggles, as the slumping Jaguars ended the 2002 season on a winning note by sweeping a doubleheader against Armstrong Atlantic State Sunday at Jaguar Field, 5-2 and 4-3.
The Jaguars, losers of seven of their last 10 before Sunday's twin bill, finished the year at 30-24 (13-16, Peach Belt Conference) and do not expect to be selected for the NCAA Division II Regionals, which begin May 16. The Peach Belt does not hold a conference baseball tournament.
On a day when the Jaguar's seniors were honored, it was two juniors who provided the offensive output Augusta State needed to defeat the Pirates (34-21, 11-18), who are also expected to miss the postseason.
Shortstop John Graham went 3-for-4 in the first game and drilled a two-run, two-out blast over the left field wall in the fifth inning to give Augusta State a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish.
Left fielder Matt May was 4-for-6 in the doubleheader and hit a solo shot to right in the third inning of Game 2, to put the Jaguars ahead, 3-1. Later in the final game, May prevented the game-tying run from scoring with one out in the seventh by gunning down Ryan Chromek at home plate.
"The ball was hit hard to me and I just got to it quick and got rid of it quick," May said of the game-saving throw. "It feels pretty good to come out here and get two big wins today.
Jaguar coach Skip Fite anticipates May's return next year.
"Matt did great early (in the season) and then struggled a little bit with his power numbers," Fite said. "But today, his stroke came back. I'm looking forward to having him back one more year."
The departing Jaguar seniors, who were honored between the games, made key contributions as well Sunday.
Starting pitcher Bush Smith surrendered just two unearned runs in seven innings in the first game, and Marty Bruce pitched two hitless innings to close out the contest.
"I needed a win," Smith said. "It's a wonderful feeling just to go out on a positive note. I couldn't have planned it any better."
In the second game, senior first baseman Chris Cooper doubled in May to give the Jaguars a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Cooper, an All-Peach Belt selection who led Augusta State with 16 home runs and 61 RBI, added a sacrifice fly in the fifth to drive in the Jaguars' final run.
After unsuccessfully dodging a celebratory water-cooler shower after the dramatic Game 2 victory, Fite commended his team for its strong showing to end the season.
"You couldn't have asked for anything more," Fite said. "We had high expectations because we won a lot of games early. It wasn't that we played really bad throughout the course of the year, but some things didn't happen. We've won 30 games before but it's been quite some time."
Reach Lane Kramer at (706) 823-3221.