Feb. 28, 2014
ATHENS-----Nelson Ward delivered a walk-off double in the 11th to give Georgia a 4-3 victory Friday over Binghamton.
Georgia (3-6) trailed 3-1 going to the bottom of the ninth. Ward didn't reach base until that frame when he scorched a bases-loaded liner over first base to bring Georgia within one run. After the Bulldogs were able to tie it up at 3, it remained that way until Ward's next at bat in the bottom of the 11th.
Bearcats' pitcher Mike Bunal issued a leadoff walk to Conor Welton to begin the 11th, and added another four-pitch walk directly after to freshman Mike Bell. With runners on first and second and nobody out, junior Nelson Ward attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt twice before hitting the walk-off double to right center to end the game. It was the first extra-inning game played by either club as the Bearcats dropped to 3-5.
The Bulldogs were helped by a strong performance from sophomore pitcher Ryan Lawlor who recorded four strikeouts over six scoreless frames, giving up five hits and a walk. He ran into some trouble in the top of the sixth inning after a single, a wild pitch and a walk. With runners on first and third with two outs, Lawlor was able to get Jake Thomas to ground out to second to end the inning.
The game heated up in the top of the sixth inning. After giving up a leadoff single to John Howell, Lawlor was able to strike out two straight batters, the second coming on a full-count called third strike to Bill Bereszniewicz. However Howell was able to steal second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After a walk and with runners on the corners, Lawlor was able to force clean-up hitter Jake Thomas to ground out to second and get out of the jam.
The Bulldogs finally struck first in the bottom of the sixth on sophomore Daniel Nichols' sharp grounder up the middle, his third RBI of the season. It was set up by a one-out double to left center by sophomore Zach Bowers. Georgia was unable to put up any more after a lineout by Brandon Stephens and a strikeout to Stephen Wrenn.
Senior Dylan Cole came on to relieve Lawlor in the top of the seventh and pitched 1.2 innings with three strikeouts and a walk, but left a runner on second. That run was quickly charged to him after reliever Jarrett Brown gave up a double to Bereszniewicz down the left field line, knotting the score at 1-apiece. The Bearcats' Daniel Nevares followed that up with a single up the middle to drive in Bereszniewicz. Nevares advanced on the throw to second and scored after two wild pitches by Brown, putting the Bulldogs a 3-1 hole. Brown was pulled after walking Thomas and junior Jared Cheek recorded a strikeout to end the inning.
After Cheek notched a scoreless ninth, Binghamton pitcher Mike Kaufman issued two straight walks to Stephen Wren and Connor Welton. He was then replaced by Mike Bunal, who promptly issued a four-pitch walk to Bell, sending Georgia to the top of the order with the bases loaded.
Ward gave the crowd something to cheer about with an RBI single to right field bringing the Bulldogs to down one, 3-2. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Binghamton decision to bring in the infield paid off, as Jess Posey grounded into a double play, scoring Welton and tying the game at three-all. With two outs and a man still on third, Bunal intentionally walked Hunter Cole before Bowers popped out to second ending the inning.
Cheek (1-2) picked up his first win of the season after pitching 3.1 scoreless innings in relief. He gave up only two hits and notched three strikeouts. Bunal (0-1) picked up his first loss of the season after giving up the walk-off double to Ward in the 11th.
"We needed a win like this, there was a lot of energy in the dugout in the ninth," said Georgia coach Scott Stricklin. "It was similar to Wednesday's game with Georgia State. We pitched well and then in one inning they strike for a few runs and we're down 3-1 in the ninth. I was glad to see Nelson (Ward) up in that situation, and I know he would put it in play tonight. Ryan Lawlor gave us a great start and Jared Cheek went the final three-plus innings."
The series continues Saturday at 1 p.m. at Foley Field.
Bulldog Game Notes: Ward's single in the ninth was the first hit with the bases loaded by Georgia this season. Before the liner they were 0-10.
Freshman Mike Bell made his first career start for the Bulldogs at shortstop, finishing 0-3, but drew crucial walks in Georgia's two-run ninth and game-winning 11th. This was his second game back from a broken hand after coming in as a pinch runner and playing two innings at second base on Tuesday against Furman.
The Bulldogs turned four doubles plays against the Bearcats, the most since a 2011 NCAA tournament win against Creighton in Corvallis, Ore.
Junior Hunter Cole recorded his fifth multi-hit game of the season with singles in the first and third innings. He has reached base safely in all nine games this year.