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Current and Former Growlers Alike Stand out in NCAA Tournament Runs

The Growlers’ season is in full swing, and the final wave of Kalamazoo reinforcements should soon be on the way. Meanwhile, the NCAA College World Series has been whittled down to two teams – Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. While no Growlers will be playing for a national championship this year, this didn’t stop the later arrivals from making their mark on the postseason.


Two squads with future Growlers advanced all the way to Omaha. Virginia came into the tournament without a national seed, and trucked through the Columbia regional. After dropping game one to South Carolina, the Cavaliers beat Jacksonville, got revenge on the Gamecocks and took down Old Dominion twice to advance. Infielder Jake Gelof hit home runs in the first two contests; against Jacksonville, the freshman was 3-4 with the aforementioned big fly and two doubles. UVA then faced off with Dallas Baptist in the Super Regional. Again, after losing the first matchup, the Cavaliers won out in the best of three to make the CWS. Gelof had three total base knocks and scored runs in the first and third game. 


In Omaha, Virginia dominated Tennessee 6-0 in its first contest. The Cavs played error-free defense, and struck out 13 Volunteers. Unfortunately, UVA couldn’t top Mississippi State or Texas, as a late rally by the Longhorns sent Gelof and company home. Gelof finished the CWS with two hits. His teammate Tate Ballestero did not see any postseason action, but will also be joining the Growlers.


Virginia was also propelled to success by Gelof’s brother, and former Growler, Zack. He hit .370(17-46) with three doubles and two home runs, while driving in five. This includes four contests with at least three hits, including two in Omaha. The Gelof brothers held down the corners of the Cavalier infield throughout the back end of the season. Jake will look to stay hot as he joins the Growlers in the near future.


Stanford also made a World Series run, hosting a regional which included the North Dakota State Bison, the Nevada Wolfpack, and the UC Irvine Anteaters. The Cardinal rolled over the Bison in game one, 9-1. Stanford also took two of three contests against UC Irvine, who made their way back through the losers bracket, to advance. For the super regional, however, Stanford had to travel from its home campus in Palo Alto, to Lubbock, as Texas Tech hosted the Cardinal for the best-of-three set. The Cardinal were not fazed by their travels, sweeping the Red Raiders in dominant fashion, by a combined score of 24-3. Henry Gargus, one of two Growlers who played for Stanford in the postseason, registered a walk during the series.


Stanford lost it’s first matchup in Omaha to North Carolina State by a score of 10-4. Brett Barrea, the other Growler who will be shortly making his way to Kalamazoo, did register an at bat in the contest, but was retired on strikes. After beating Pac-12 foe Arizona 14-5, the Cardinal were walked off by Vanderbilt, 6-5, ending their season.


Another team that nearly made a run at Omaha was Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish were full of current and former Growlers making their deep postseason run a possibility. Notre Dame dominated its regional, hosted in South Bend. The Irish overwhelmed UConn and Central Michigan twice by a combined score of 50-5, putting up at least 10 runs in each game. Growlers OF Brooks Coetzee was named to the All-Regional team, going 6-15, scoring four runs and driving in five. TJ Williams, another Growlers outfielder, also featured throughout the opening round, flashing the leather on some exceptional defensive plays. 


Next up for Notre Dame was the Starkville Super Regional against Mississippi State. Cowbells rang all throughout the ballpark packed with 14,385 fans. It was the largest crowd in NCAA Super Regional history, and also the largest crowd Coetzee had ever played in front of. 


After losing 9-8 in game one, the Irish battled back and took game two 9-1. Ultimately though, the Irish could not claim the winner take all contest, falling 11-7. Coetzee registered a hit in 11 at bats through the series.


Both Coetzee and Williams have settled in nicely to the Growlers. Coetzee is currently hitting .353 with a home run and 4 RBI, while Williams is hitting .241 with a .371 on-base percentage. Both have also brought stellar defensive play to the table, as Williams has already registered an outfield assist, and Coetzee made a highlight reel diving catch on his season debut.


Another huge contributor to the Irish’s success is Niko Kavadas. The 2018 Growler has taken college baseball by storm this season as a Golden Spikes Award Semifinalist. In the postseason, Kavadas hit .400 (8-20) with two home runs and six RBI. 


Dominic Pitelli is the final Growler to have appeared in the NCAA Tournament. While his Miami Hurricanes did not advance past the Gainesville Regional, Pitelli still brings plenty of big game experience to Kalamazoo, starting all three games for his hometown university. Pitelli is an outstanding defender in the middle infield, who has already made a plethora of highlight reel plays in his brief stint with the Growlers.


Pitelli and company will surely be looking to bring a continued impact to Homer Stryker Field this summer, after very successful seasons with their respective universities.