Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rios pitches Bulldogs to AAC Championship

ATHENS, Tennessee - Southview’s Gabe Rios pitched six shut-out innings, while his Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs pounded out 23 hits and defeated Milligan, 17-2 on Tuesday, which earned them a spot in the Appalachian Athletic Conference Championship.

Rios allowed just three hits, two walks, no runs, while striking out two. He improved his record to 3-1 and lowered his ERA to 3.72.

“I started off kind of slow," said Rios, who is tied for second on the team with 21 appearances, having pitched 39 2/3 innings this season, mostly in relief.
"Coach told me I didn't have my swagger. So I focused on getting into my rhythm and I found my swagger. I got into the zone."

After re-scheduling Thursday's AAC Championship start time, a rain delay in the bottom of the third, and after playing four innings of baseball Wednesday night only to have the game suspended until Thursday, the 10th ranked Bulldogs came back from a 3-0 deficit to win the AAC Championship over 14th ranked Union College, 5-3. The win is Tennessee Wesleyan's eighth straight conference championship title. Rios pitched the ninth inning, earning the save.

“It feels good to end an important game," Rios said. "You basically pitch off of adrenaline. It feels good to be a part of this team. I basically went from getting hurt and not knowing if I was going to play again - to making lifetime memories that I will always have. It’s a bunch of fun. It’s like playing summer ball all over again. We have a lot of different personalities and great players."

The Bulldogs, who are 43-13, will now wait to see where they will play in the opening round of the Baseball National Championship. The final Top 25 poll, along with the National Championship qualifiers, and opening round brackets and seedings will be announced Friday.

Rios feels satisfied about this season and his decision to go to Tennessee, especially after the journey he took to get there.

After graduating from Southview in 2005, Rios went to Glen Oak Community College in Michigan, along with Saints' teammates Tony Valentin and Brandy Crawford. Former Southview and Toledo graduate Junie Melendez was the head coach that recruited them to go out there. Rios played two years and became their No. 2 starter and even pitched in the regional championship as a freshman.

He then transferred to Urbana and played his junior year and was getting ready for his senior year, but was hit in the groin area by a line drive - and what he thought might be an end to his baseball career.

After sitting out what would've been his senior year, he decided to come back with his one year left of eligibility and transfer to Tennessee Wesleyan - a team that heavily recruited him.

A decision he couldn't be happier about.

Stay tuned for updates on Rios' journey through the National Championship Tournament.

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