Tide and Dawgs split Friday Games

ATHENS - Georgia and Alabama split a doubleheader Friday.

A crowd of 3,328 saw another thriller as the Crimson Tide (32-24, 16-14 SEC) captured the series over the SEC champion Bulldogs who end the regular season at 35-19-1 overall and a school record 20-9-1 league mark. Saturday's game featured six more home runs by the two teams who combined to hit 20 in the series and tallied 68 runs, the most ever in a UGA-UA series. Bulldog junior catcher/designated hitter Bryce Massanari batted .727 (8-for-11) in the series with four home runs and 11 RBI.  

After a one-out walk to second baseman Ross Wilson in the first, Alabama grabbed a 2-0 lead compliments of a two-run home run from Brandon May, his ninth of the year. Georgia surged ahead 3-2 in the third inning. Sophomore Matt Cerione led off with his second home run of the series and sixth of the year. Then, the Bulldogs scored a couple of unearned runs following a throwing error by Wilson. Sophomore David Thoms was able to tag up and score from second on a deep flyball by senior Matt Olson that Alex Kubal caught and crashed in to the wall. Sophomore Rich Poythress notched an RBI on a groundout which brought Peisel in for a 3-2 edge. Poythress left the game after the third due to a sprained wrist and Georgia inserted Robbie O'Bryan at first.  

Alabama came right back to take a 4-3 lead in the top of the fourth on a run-scoring single by May and an error by Cerione allowed the go-ahead run to score. The Bulldogs responded with a six-run outburst to take a 9-5 lead. The big frame was keyed by a two-run double by Peisel and a two-run home run by O'Bryan. Georgia brought in freshman Justin Grimm to start the fifth after junior Nathan Moreau allowed four runs on five hits with four walks. Catcher Alex Avila connected for his 16th home run of the year to make it 9-5.  

With one out in the sixth, Alabama collected four straight hits off Grim including a two-run double by Josh Rutledge and a bloop run-scoring double by Wilson that made it 9-8. Grimm was lifted for sophomore Dean Weaver and May tied the game with a RBI-single. Avila kept the streak going with the Crimson Tide's sixth straight hit to put two aboard for Kent Matthes. He reached on an error by Gordon Beckham to load the bases for Matt Bentley who lined a two-run single to right to put Alabama in front 11-9. Jake Smith lined a single to right but Olson threw out Matthes trying to score for the second out and on the play, both runners moved into scoring position for Rhoden who was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Kubal. He grounded out to put an end to the Tide outburst that featured six runs on eight hits. Alabama added a run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Avila for a 12-9 advantage. Smith's seventh home run of the year with one out in the eighth made it 13-9.  

A two-out RBI-single by O'Bryan in the eighth pulled the Bulldogs back to within three at 13-10. Then, Massanari launched a three-run blast to tie the contest at 13-13. It was Massanari's fourth home run of the series and ninth on the year.  

In the ninth, Georgia turned to senior closer Joshua Fields. Alabama got a leadoff hit from Rutledge and Wilson reached on a walk. May struck out trying to bunt. Avila popped out to left. On a 2-2 pitch, Matthes was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Bentley. On a 1-2 offering, Fields' pitch got past by Crane to allow Rutledge to score. Crane's throw back was wide of the plate, and Peisel's throw back home was off the mark, allowing another run in to make it 15-3. Then, Bentley smacked a run-scoring double for a 16-13 edge. Fields struck out Smith to send it to the bottom of the ninth. Graham retired the Bulldogs in order to give the Crimson Tide the series. Before that bizarre sequence, Fields had allowed just four runs on the year.  

Fields got the loss to even his mark to 2-2, allowing three runs on two hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Graham picked up the win to improve to 6-1. He pitched the final three innings and gave up four runs on three hits.  

On the day, Beckham scored two more runs to set the Bulldog mark with 76 runs scored this season.  

"We've had a great year so far, the regular season is over and we did what he needed to do win the SEC," said Georgia coach David Perno. "We battled hard all weekend, and a new season starts Monday. We have to get some quality starts and not put so much of it on our bullpen. The bullpen has been really good but this weekend, it was perhaps humbling for them and they can focus on getting everything in order for the postseason. I thought we swung the bats really well and got some production from the bottom of the order."  

The Bulldogs will be the top seed at the SEC Tournament which gets underway Wednesday in Hoover, Ala., at Regions Park. The Bulldogs are slated to play the No. 8 seed which will be either Arkansas, South Carolina or Ole Miss at 6 p.m. ET, and it will be televised live by CSS. Georgia's opponent has not been determined due to those teams still playing Saturday. Tournament seeding will be complete late Saturday.  

Before Wednesday's game, the Bulldogs will be presented the 2008 SEC Championship Trophy by the league office. The SEC Tournament, a double-elimination event featuring the top eight teams, runs from May 21-25, and the winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.


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