Bama knocks off Dawgs... SECs next

ATHENS - Alabama took advantage of a couple of ninth-inning errors and a wild pitch to claim a 16-13 win over seventh-ranked Georgia Saturday at Foley Field.

Georgia (35-18-1) tied a school record for most SEC wins in a season now at 20-8-1 while Alabama improved its record to 31-24 overall and qualified for the SEC Tournament at 15-14. Bulldog junior catcher Bryce Massanari had a memorable day, going 7-for-7 with three home runs and 8 RBI in the doubleheader.  

"I was proud of how the team hung in there in both games," said Georgia coach David Perno. "In the first game, we were down 10-1, our ace goes out with a shoulder stiffness, but we fought back and while we didn't pull that one out, we did win the second game. We played a long time today and didn't make an error, and the pitching was much better in the second game. Offensively, we did enough. Bryce had a pretty special day and Rich (Poythress) wasn't too shabby either."  

In game one, the teams combined for nine home runs and Alabama outslugged Georgia 17-13. Alabama led 10-1 in the third before Georgia got within two at 14-12 in the eighth. The Crimson Tide jumped ahead 6-0 in the second inning courtesy of a two-out, two-run home run by third baseman Jake Smith and later a grand slam by catcher Alex Avila. After a base hit by Brandon May, the ninth batter of the frame, Bulldog junior right-hander Trevor Holder summoned the Georgia dugout. He would leave the game with stiffness in his shoulder, and the Bulldogs turned to sophomore Steve Esmonde. Alabama loaded the bases again, and Esmonde fell behind designated hitter Del Howell 3-0 before coming back to strike him out. Georgia got a run back in the bottom of the inning when Miers Quigley walked in a run. Massanari reached with a one-out single and later scored after three straight walks, the last to sophomore Matt Cerione. However with the bases loaded. Quigley got Miles Starr to bounce into an inning-ending double play. The Alabama left-hander went five innings and gave up six runs on six hits with six walks and no strikeouts.  

The Crimson Tide answered right back with two more home runs for a 10-1 advantage. Smith led off the third with his sixth home run, and Ross Wilson added a three-run home run. Massanari lined a two-run double in the bottom of the inning to make it a seven-run deficit at 10-3. In the fifth, Georgia joined the home run parade. Following a one-out walk to Gordon Beckham, sophomore Rich Poythress smashed his 11th home run of the year, a two-run shot to right center. Massanari followed with a solo shot to bring the Bulldogs to within four at 10-6.  

Sophomore left-hander Justin Earls came on to start the sixth for the Bulldogs but junior Will Harvil had to get the last out as the Crimson Tide struck for four more runs on four hits to extend their lead to 14-6. Ryan Peisel and Matt Olson delivered back-to-back run-scoring doubles off Alabama reliever Jimmy Nelson. Poythress added a two-out, RBI-single to close the gap to 14-9. In the eighth, Massanari connected for a three-run home run to give him a career-high four hits and six RBI and make it a two-run contest at 14-12. Harvil had pitched three scoreless innings and had two outs in the top of the ninth before Del Howell launched a three-run home run, Alabama's fifth of the day, to put the Crimson Tide ahead 17-12. Cerione connected for his fifth home run to start the bottom of the ninth that made the final 17-13. Austin Graham pitched the final 1.2 innings for his fourth save with Quigley notching the win to move his record to 5-4 while Holder fell to 7-4.  

In game two, Alabama continued its two-out hitting in the first as Brandon May's run-scoring double gave the Crimson Tide a 1-0 lead. The double brought home Alex Avila who kept the inning going with a two-out single. Avila led off the fourth with his 15th home run for a 2-0 edge. Bulldog first baseman Rich Poythress continued a torrid day of hitting with his 12th home run of the year, a solo shot off Austin Hyatt to lead off the bottom of the fourth to make it 2-1.  

In the fifth, Alabama looked to extend its lead after putting the first two on and the top of the order due up. However, Bulldog junior Stephen Dodson retired Rutledge, Wilson and Avila to keep it 2-1. In the bottom of the sixth, Massanari's memorable day continued with a two-run home run to put the Bulldogs ahead 3-2. At that point in the doubleheader, he was 7-for-7 with three home runs and eight RBI.  

Dodson was lifted in favor of sophomore left-hander Alex McRee in the seventh. Dodson provided six innings, allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Alabama again rallied with two outs. Rutledge singled up the middle and then Wilson delivered a two-run home run to put the Crimson Tide back in front 4-3. On the day, Alabama scored 15 of its 21 runs with two outs. However Georgia answered as shortstop Gordon Beckham joined the home run derby with his school record-tying 23rd blast of the year, an opposite field shot off Will Stroup that tied the game at 4-all.  

"That was a big home run by Gordon, a very timely one and that's great for him," Perno added. "Earlier in the day, he was probably trying to hit one and that happens when guys get close to records, but he came up with a big one and went the other way with it too."  

In the eighth, Mathes lined a two-out double and Georgia lifted McRee in favor of senior All-America closer Joshua Fields. He struck out pinch-hitter Del Howell on three pitches. Meanwhile Will Stroup came on for Hyatt in the seventh. Hyatt allowed three runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts through the first six innings.  

Fields made quick work of the Crimson Tide in the ninth, retiring the side in order. Piesel led off the bottom of the frame by drawing a walk.  Then, Olson lined a single to the gap in left center that was misplayed by Alex Kubal. With Peisel running on the play, he was waved home and scored easily on the play for a 5-4 walk-off victory. Fields, who struck out two in 1.1 innings, picked up the win to improve to 2-1 while Stroup dropped to 5-3.

  The rubber game of the series will be Saturday at 2 p.m. EDT. Georgia will honor its five seniors in a pre-game ceremony.  

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