College baseball: Super Regional starts Friday at Newman Park

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 23, 2024

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Georgia College & State University was the least heralded and least seeded baseball team when the Southeast Regional began, but the Bobcats from Milledgeville, Ga., went undefeated in Tigerville, S.C. against a tough regional field that included host North Greenville, South Atlantic Conference Tournament champ Wingate and perennial power UNC Pembroke.

Now the seventh-seeded Bobcats (37-20) roll into Newman Park for a best-of-three Super Regional series that will start on Friday. Austin Fine (8-3) will throw his first pitch for the top-seeded Indians at 6 p.m.

At stake will be one of the eight berths for the Division II Championships in Cary.

Catawba, ranked ninth in Division II, doesn’t often have Georgia College on the schedule. The baseball programs haven’t squared off since 2015.

Georgia College’s three main starters are all right-handed, which is good news for Catawba lefty hitters such as Bo Rusher, Sam Hunter, Drew Robertson, Ty Hubbard and Cooper Bryson.

The standout for Georgia College defies the pitching prototype, as he stands 5-foot-10, but John Luke Glanton is definitely an ace. He’s 11-4 with a 2.45 ERA. His numbers are the staff’s best by a lot, so he will likely get the ball on Friday. He doesn’t have huge strikeout numbers, but he gets people out.

The other usual starters, Jacob Ryan (8-2) and Bradley Wilson (4-3), are much bigger guys than Glanton at 215 and 220 pounds respectively.

The best hitter for Georgia College is right fielder Brandon Bellflower. He’ll bat third. He’s batting .374 with some pop and his ratio of walks (43) to strikeouts (37) is impressive.

Shortstop Gabriel Wurth and first baseman Braeden Smith are the guys who get on base for Bellflower and cleanup man Matthew Mebane.

Mebane, the third baseman, is a classic power hitter. He strikes out quite a bit, but he can crush the ball when he connects. He has 20 homers and 70 RBIs.

Georgia College hits .311 as a team and pitches to an ERA of 4.52. Catawba’s numbers are slightly better — a .322 team batting average and a 4.32 ERA — but Georgia College has out-homered the Indians 53-43.

Catawba hits a reasonable amount of homers, but the strength of a relentless offense is getting on base at a high rate. Shortstop Levi Perrell, right fielder Dylan Driver, catcher  Rusher, center fielder Hunter and left fielder Robertson all have OBPs of .448 or higher. First baseman Logan Rogers has hit 13 home runs. Rusher leads the team in RBIs with 64.

On the mound, Catawba will likely send South Atlantic Conference Pitcher of the Year Payne Stolsworth (10-3) to the mound for the second game of the series on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

If a third game is needed, it would be played on Saturday night. Catawba’s mound options would include Cole Hales, Casey Gouge, Mason Gwyn and Hayden Simmerson. Gwyn and Simmerson have done most of their excellent work out of the bullpen. Gouge was the hero of Catawba’s win against Young Harris that enabled the Indians to advance to this series.

Admission for the Super Regional is $10, with senior citizens, Catawba students and children under 12 getting in for $5. Concessions will be sold.

The Indians drew 500 or so fans for each of the games in the first round of the regional.


Catawba got more good news this week when Matthew Connolly, a West Rowan graduate who was the Region 10 Player of the Year at Surry Community College, announced that he’ll be an Indian next year. Connolly is a catcher who will be reunited as a catching combo with his friend and former Rowan County Legion teammate Cam Burleyson. The Indians will lose Rusher, so Connolly will be helpful.