June 5, 2011
CORVALLIS, ORE. --- Georgia stormed back to eliminate 25th-ranked Creighton 5-4 in 11 innings Sunday to advance to the regional championship round of the NCAA Corvallis Regional at Goss Stadium.
Freshman Brandon Stephens' RBI-single provided a walk-off victory as Peter Verdin scored from second after reaching on a two-out single and moved in to scoring position on a stolen base. Georgia (33-31) picked a nice time to win its first extra-inning game of the year in three attempts while the Bluejays (45-16) fell to 5-1 in extra innings. The Bulldogs improved to 17-19 against ranked teams this year and staved off elimination once again. With their season on the line, Georgia is now 5-1, the lone defeat coming in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
Up next, the Bulldogs face No. 16 Oregon State Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT. Georgia will start sophomore left-hander Blake Dieterich (3-3, 3.44 ERA) while the Beavers counter with junior left-hander Josh Osich (6-4, 3.57 ERA). The Bulldogs need to defeat the Beavers (40-17) twice to win the regional championship. Should Georgia win Sunday's contest, the two teams would square off again for the title on Monday at 9 p.m. EDT.
"It means a lot to come through for the team and get that hit," said Stephens. "Our pitchers have done a great job in this tournament and I'm glad we came through for them."
Creighton went up 1-0 in the first on a couple of miscues by Georgia right-hander Ben Cornwell. After getting Alex Staehely to bounce in to a double play, Cornwell's first pitch to Trever Adams hit him in the back. After moving to second on a stolen base, Georgia attempted a pickoff play at second and Cornwell's throw went in to centerfield for an error as Adams raced to third. Shortstop Jimmy Swift made it 1-0 with an RBI-single. Georgia responded with a two-out rally of its own in the bottom of the inning.
Junior Levi Hyams led off with a base hit and was then erased when freshman Conor Welton hit in to a double play. Shortstop Kyle Farmer laced a double to left and on a 1-2 pitch, left fielder Zach Cone blasted a home run to left to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 advantage. It was the fourth home run for Cone, and the first one allowed by Bluejay left-hander Greg Hellhake this season, a span of 65.2 innings. The Bluejays tied it up in the second on two base hits, a sacrifice bunt and then a sacrifice fly by third baseman Chance Ross.
Cornwell provided the Bulldogs with a solid start, going a career-long five innings and allowing just two runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. It was his first start since April 26. Georgia turned to sophomore Bryan Benzor to start the sixth. Meanwhile, the Beavers went to their bullpen with one out in the seventh. Hellhake went 6.1 innings and allowed two runs on five hits with three walks. Right-hander Chase Webb came on with Bulldog junior Jonathan Hester on after a leadoff single. He got Curt Powell to hit in to a double play. Georgia set a season-high by turning four double plays.
In the eighth, Benzor issued a leadoff walk to Chance Ross. The Bluejays moved him in to scoring position with a sacrifice bunt by Nick Judkins. Then, second baseman Alex Staehely provided an RBI-double to put Creighton in front 3-2. After an intentional walk to Adams, Georgia lifted Benzor in favor of sophomore closer Tyler Maloof. After retiring Swift, catcher Anthony Bemboom made it 4-2 with a run-scoring single.
In the eighth, Georgia rallied back to tie the contest with a one-out, two-run home run from Farmer. It came on a 1-2 count with Welton aboard and off of Bluejay reliever Mark Winkleman. Farmer was the first batter he faced, and it was his seventh home run of the year.
With one out in the 10th, Maloof hit back-to-back batters to put Adams and Swift aboard for Bemboom. He got him to bounce one to Farmer who flipped to Hyams and over to Hester to complete a season-high fourth double play on the day. In the 11th, pinch-hitter Scott Thornburg reached on a one-out single and the Bluejays sent in pinch-runner Joey Bowens. Georgia lifted Maloof in favor of sophomore right-hander Earl Daniels. Freshman Brandon Stephens threw out Bowens trying to steal second. Daniels retired Mike Gerber and struck out designated hitter Gabriel Thibodeaux to send it to the bottom of the 11th.
"What do you say about this team, they have battled all year and this game took a lot out of us but it's time to get ready to play Oregon State," said Georgia coach David Perno. "Today it started by getting a great start from Ben Cornwell and the bullpen did a nice job too. Kyle (Farmer) has done it all year for us at the plate, and it was a thrill to see Brnadon (Stephens) get that big hit. We felt good with him up there, he' been taking some good swings."
Daniels picked up his first career win while Spomer dropped to 3-4 as Creighton saw its season end.