March 4, 2012
Athens, Ga.--- Western Illinois salvaged the final game of the series with eighth ranked Georgia Sunday, defeating the Bulldogs 7-4 at Foley Field.
Georgia (10-2) made three errors and WIU chased redshirt freshman starter Taylor Hicks after two innings with a four-run outburst. Hicks had not allowed a run in his previous two starts. The Bulldogs led 2-0 after the first.
Bulldog leadoff hitter Curt Powell ripped Nick Smith's first pitch of the game into left field. He was able to advance to second on Connor Welton's soft groundout to the pitcher and then he made his way to third on a passed ball. Kyle Farmer took advantage of this opportunity to get his ninth RBI of the season, as he smacked the ball passed Western Illinois shortstop, Austin Cowen, and into left field. A couple pitches later Farmer did something that is rarely seen in baseball, he went from first to third on a wild pitch. With Farmer on third and just one out, senior Levi Hyams was able to put Georgia on top 2-0 with a groundout to the second baseman, Jameson Henning.
In the second, Western Illinois (4-6) was able to respond. After Tom Lilja led off the inning with a single to centerfield, the Fighting Leathernecks had back-to-back infield singles. The first came when Ryan Cowley beat out a grounder to shortstop, and the second was a well-placed bunt by Vince Howard. With the bases loaded, Hicks gave up the first run of his career, as Henning hit the ball into left field. Next, with the bases still loaded, Manny Reyes hit a fly ball to right field. After the catch, Bulldog right fielder, Kevin Ruiz, fired the ball home to stop the runner on third, Cowley, from tagging up, he held, but the runner on second, Howard, had already begun to make his way to third, Georgia catcher, Joey Delmonico, thought he had caught Howard sleeping so he threw it to Farmer who was covering, although Howard was able to get back safely. Once Delmonico threw it down to second, Cowley sprinted home, in an attempt to throw him out Farmer threw it back to Delmonico, but this throw was off the mark and the ball bounced into the Western Illinois dugout, by rule both Cowley and Howard were allowed to score. The rally continued as designated hitter, Rich Masceri, knocked an RBI single into centerfield to make the score 4-2. Hicks finished with six hits, four earned runs and one strikeout. He got the loss to fall to 2-1.
In the fourth with two outs and the bases empty, Chase Hawkins hit Dan Dispensa with a pitch. Cowen followed with an RBI-triple. Next, Matt Igara made it 6-2 with a run-scoring single. Hawkins was then able to get Lilja to fly out to centerfield to put an end to the inning. Hawkins pitched two innings and finished with three hits, two runs, and one strikeout.
In the top of the fifth the scoring continued for the Leathernecks. Bulldogs reliever, Jesse Scott, came in and gave up a lead off walk to Cowley, who was able to steal second and third. As he stole third Brett DeLoach, who had relieved Delmonico of his catching duties at the start of the inning, threw the ball passed Powell and into left field. Cowley came home on this error increasing the lead to 7-2. Scott pitched 0.2 of the inning as he had two strikeouts and two walks. Sophomore Earl Daniels was brought in to finish up the inning; the inning came to a close as DeLoach caught Reyes attempting to steal second.
Georgia finally got back on the board in the bottom of the eighth. The inning began with an error by Henning that allowed Farmer to reach base. After two outs, Georgia got a single from designated hitter Jared Walsh and a walk by first baseman Jonathan Hester. Next Peter Verdin blasted a bases loaded single into right field, scoring Farmer and Walsh to make it 7-4. This ended Nick Smith's day, he finished with six hits four runs--two earned--four walks, and seven strikeouts in 7.2 innings. Smith earned his first career win. Leathernecks pitcher Seth Fuller recorded the last four outs for his second save.
"Western came out today and played really well, and they got another strong start," said Georgia coach David Perno. "We had a defensive breakdown in that one inning, and our bullpen was forced in to action early. I think we wore down a bit because we haven't been able to score a lot of runs and that can be taxing. We just need to take care of the baseball and get a few guys going at the plate. We didn't have any big innings this week."
The Bulldogs hit the road for the first time this season on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Georgia travels to Lawrenceville, Ga., for a game against Kennesaw State at Coolray Field, the Triple-A home of the Gwinnett Braves. Proceeds from the contest benefit Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.