Talladega College defeated No. 2 ranked Georgia Gwinnett 5-2 to claim its first-ever Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.) baseball championship title. Coming into the tournament, the Tornados had 9 wins against Top 25 NAIA teams so they set their sights on winning this crown. They needed to win three games and they did just that by beating the nationally ranked Grizzly twice over the weekend to clinch the A.I.I. and a second straight appearance in the NAIA National Tournament.
Talladega jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. Hamlet Flores was hit by a pitch from Georgia Gwinnett starter Jonathan McKinney. Flores moved to second on a wild pitch, Gustavo Castellano singled to center field scoring Flores. Talladega added two more runs in the third. Jorge Rodriquez reached base on an infield error, moved to second on a stolen base and Flores reached on a walk. Castellano then singled driving in his second run of the game scoring Rodriquez and Flores for a 3-0 lead.
The Grizzlies would quickly erased the deficit to 3-1 getting a run in the top of the fourth inning. Alex Garland doubled to left field and advanced to third base on the play. The next batter, Onassis Matos walk followed by a Cord Johnson fielders choice ground out to the short stop which plated Garland.
Talladega would pick up two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Ryan Ramirez singled and scored on a Julian Lopez inside the park home run, making it a 5-1 ball game.
Talladega starter Daniel Castillo battled through several bases loaded jams including in the eighth inning when the Grizzlies loaded the bases with one out with the heart of its batting order coming to the plate. Castillo induced a fly out and a ground out to end the inning. He held Georgia Gwinnett scoreless from the fourth into the ninth when reliever Manuel Caballero entered to close out the game. He allowed one run as the Georgia Gwinnett mounted a game tying threat with two runners on base before Caballero got the final out for the 5-2 win.
Daniel Castillo, for the game, pitched 8 innings with 5 hits, and one run allowed. Caballero got the save.
Talladega will wait to find out which of the nine opening round sites it will play in for the national tournament that starts May 14-17.