UGA Salvages Final Game of Series vs. Bama

It took the No. 23 Georgia Bulldogs almost 23 innings to take its first lead over the University of Alabama baseball team this weekend in Athens and once they grabbed the lead they seized control of the game.

Georgia (14-4, 1-2 SEC) scored six runs on six hits in the bottom of the fifth inning en route to a 6-1 win over the Alabama in the series finale Sunday afternoon at Foley Field. With the win, Georgia avoided a sweep at home in its first SEC series of the season.

The six runs were almost not enough for the Bulldogs, who watched Alabama close the gap to two runs in the final innings. Bama got one run in the seventh inning and added two more in the eighth but could get no closer.

Alabama freshman right-hander Tommy Hunter breezed through the first four innings with six strikeouts, but struggled in the sixth as he allowed six runs and six hits and faced eight batters in the inning.

Hunter walked Kyle Keen to open the inning and Ryan Piesel moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Matthew Dunn followed with a ground ball single to right and Joey Side's infield single to left scored Keen and tie the game at 1-1. Gordon Beckham followed with base hit to left field as Dunn scored from second to give Georgia its first lead of the weekend at 2-1.

Hunter then hit Jason Jacobs with a pitch to load the bases and Josh Morris followed with another infield hit to score Side and put Georgia up 3-1. Beckham scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-1 and Bobby Felmy drilled a two-run double to left-center to score Jacobs and Morris and push the lead to 6-1.

Hunter was replaced by Jake McCarter, who escaped further damage in the inning. Hunter (3-2) gave up six runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings with one walk and six strikeouts.

"In this league, you have to avoid the one big inning," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "We did not do that today. If you hold them to four runs instead of six, we probably come back and win the game if we continue to compete and we competed hard."

Hunter's counterpart redshirt freshman right-hander Trevor Holder, a 2004 graduate of Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, held Alabama to one run and five hits in 5 1/3 innings for the win. He walked one and struck out.

The six-run fifth inning erased a 1-0 deficit for Georgia. Alabama had taken the 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning when senior second baseman Evan Bush doubled off the wall in left field and scored on freshman DH Alex Avila's RBI single through the right side of the infield.

Georgia wasted an earlier opportunity to take its first lead of the series when they loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the third inning, but failed to score a run.

With one out, Matthew Dunn reached on an error by third baseman Matt Downs. Joey Side laced a hit-and-run single into left field and Gordon Beckham followed with another hit-and-run single to short to load the bases. Hunter then got Georgia's leading hitter to rap into the inning double play, which included an excellent pivot throw at second base by Bush.

Alabama (16-7, 2-1 SEC) had the bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning but did not score as senior pinch-hitter David Ferazza and freshman right fielder Kent Matthes struck out in succession against Rip Warren to end the threat.

The Crimson Tide closed the gap to 6-2 in the seventh inning when junior shortstop Greg Paiml doubled to right-center and scored on Emeel Salem's RBI single up the middle.

Georgia's closer, Joshua Fields came into the game in a non-save situation and got Downs to ground into the inning-ending double play to avoid further damage.

The Crimson Tide touched Fields for two runs in the eighth inning to narrow the gap to 6-4. Valverde was hit by a pitch with one out and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Avila singled to right field to score Valverde from second base and cut the gap to 6-3.

After senior pinch-hitter Spencer Pennington grounded out, Matthes reached on a bad hop single under the glove of Morris at first base to score Avila and move the Tide within 6-4.

Belcher's sharp grounded up the middle was snared by Beckham, who forced Matthes at second to end the inning. Fields retired Alabama in order in the ninth inning to preserve the lead and the game.

Georgia out-hit Alabama 11-10 in the series finale. Beckham had three hits and Side added two hits for the Bulldogs. Avila lead Alabama with three hits and two RBI, while Matthes added two hits and one RBI in the loss.

Alabama returns home on Wednesday, March 22 to host the Troy Trojans in a 6:30 p.m. game at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crimson Tide hosts Ole Miss next weekend (March 24-26) in the first SEC home series of the 2006 season.

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