Alabama (16-6, 2-0 SEC) clinched its first Southeastern Conference series win of the season with Saturday's win. The Crimson Tide will go for the series sweep in a 1 p.m. (ET) game Sunday afternoon.
Bush, who had been mired a month-long slump, went 3-for-4 with a double, scored runs and drove in a run as the Crimson Tide clinched its first series win in Athens since 1998. "Evan Bush swung the bat better today, the best he has all year," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "He came up big for us today."
The senior from Rainbow City jump started the Tide offense with a double over the head of Georgia center fielder Joey Side to lead off the third inning. Senior catcher Kody Valverde followed with a two-run home run to put the Tide up 2-0.
"It's been tough," Bush said of his recent 2-for-21 slump at the plate. "I was able to get something going early in the game to help the team. Once I hit that ball. I was able to relax and go up there and hit ball better today."
Alabama missed out on several opportunities to blow the game open against UGa starter senior left-hander Mickey Westphal. The Crimson Tide loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning and did not score. Valverde lined out to second baseman Matthew Dunn and Bush was doubled off at first base as he wandered too far off the bag. Westphal then struck out David Ferazza to end the inning and the threat.
After Bush and Valverde staked the Tide to a 2-0 lead in the third inning, Bama loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning but did not score as Westpahl again wiggled of the hook when senior third baseman Matt Downs hit into the inning-ending double play.
"We competed well and played nine innings," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "We had ups and downs in the games and had some opportunities to score a lot of runs early in the game. Our players are hanging in there everyday. This is a tough game to win and I am glad we were able to get that done today." The 2-0 lead seemed larger that it really was considering the effort the Tide was getting on the mound from junior right-hander Bernard Robert.
The Denham Springs, La., native handcuffed Georgia through the first five innings and even had a perfect game in the fifth inning of his first career SEC start.
After retiring the first 14 batters he faced, Robert issued a two-out walk to Ryan Piesel before Matt Robbins broke up the no-hit bid with a single up the middle. Robert then got a Gordan Beckham to ground out to Downs to end the inning.
The Bulldogs were back at it again in the sixth inning and tied the game with two runs on two hits. Matthew Dunn led off the frame with a double to left-centerfield. Joey Side reached on a throwing error by Downs to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Pinch-hitter Kyle Keen popped up to Bush at second base for the first out before Jason Jacobs lined a 3-0 pitch into right field to score Dunn with the first run of the game for Georgia. After Josh Morris reached on an infield single to load the bases, Bobby Felmy drove a sac fly to deep center to score Side from third and tie the game at 2-2. Piesel grounded out to end the inning as UGA stranded two runners.
Alabama took advantage of two Georgia errors and three wild pitches to score three runs in the seventh inning to take a 5-2 lead. Greg Paiml led off the inning with a bunt and reached when the ball came out of Josh Morris' glove at first base and squirted across the infield.
Salem was hit by pitch to put runners on first and second base and then the wheels fell off for Georgia when Paiml and Salem moved up a base on Adam McDaniel's wild pitch. Paiml scored and Salem raced to third on a throwing error by catcher Jason Jacobs. Bush then dropped an RBI single in front of left fielder Kyle Keen to score Salem from third base and give UA a 4-2 lead. Valverde walked to put runners at first and second.
With pinch-hitter Alex Avila at the plate, McDaniel uncorked his third wild pitch of the inning to score Bush and give the Tide a 5-2 lead. Avila then drew a walk before Pennington hit into an inning-ending double play, the third turned by the Bulldogs in the game.
McDaniel (2-1) was charged with the loss as he allowed three runs and two hits in 2 2/3 innings, with three walks, one hit batter and four wild pitches.
Georgia picked up two hits in the bottom of the inning to chase Robert from the game with one out. After Jordan Davis' wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, Davis then got a pop up and fly out to end the inning.
Robert (3-1) allowed two runs (one earned) and six hits in 6 1/3 innings for his first SEC win. He added six strikeouts and walked only one batter.
"Bernard Robert pitched well today," Wells said. "(Jordan) Davis and (David) Robertson got the last eight outs in the bullpen. They were all outstanding today."
The Bulldogs closed the gap to 5-3 in the eighth inning on Bobby Felmy's solo home run down the right field line. It was Felmy's third home run of the season.
Davis retired five of the six batters he faced and turned the game over to sophomore right-hander David Robertson, who fanned the side in the ninth for his team-leading fifth save.
*Alabama's win on Saturday clinches the Crimson Tide's first series win in Athens since 1998. Prior to this year, the home team had won the last seven series.
*With another nail-biter on Saturday, the last nine Alabama-Georgia baseball games have been decided by 12 total runs.
*Robert retired the first 14 Georgia batters he faced on Saturday. Add that to Wade LeBlanc's final five innings on Friday and the duo retired 29 or 30 Georgia batters over a span of nine innings. LeBlanc retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced in Friday series opener.
*Salem (1-for-2) extended his hitting streak to five games with a leadoff single in the first inning. Salem is 6-for-16 (.375) in the first inning this year and has reached base safely (6 hits, 6 walks) in 12 of the Tide's 22 games with first plate appearance.
*Bush's leadoff double in the third inning was his first extra base hit since Feb. 14. His RBI single in the 7th inning was his first RBI since March 5th.
*Robertson struck out the side in the ninth inning for his team-leading fifth save. In his two-year career, Robertson has logged 13 saves to rank 8th on the school's all-time chart.