Saturday, March 9, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. – Nelson Ward, Curt Powell and Hunter Cole each had two hits apiece and starter Patrick Boling pitched a career-high six innings to lead Georgia to a 3-1 series-clinching victory over Liberty on Saturday at Foley Field.
Senior Bryan Benzor earned his first win of the season for the Bulldogs, who even their record at 7-7 on the year. Liberty’s Brooks Roy (2-1) took his first loss of the season as the Flames now fall to 9-5 overall. Coming in Saturday, Roy had allowed just one earned run in 18 innings and left with the game tied 1-1 before the Flames bullpen allowed two of his runs to score. Meanwhile, Georgia’s pitching staff has allowed just one run in the series, a solo home run Saturday.
“It seems like it’s been forever to get back to 500, and now we have a chance to get above that on Sunday after pitching extremely well again today,” said Georgia coach David Perno. “Patrick, Bryan and Jared were sharp, and our defense made some key plays including a nice double play to end it. The second run in the eighth to give us a 3-1 lead was huge. I was happy for Brett, that was a big hit. Of course, J.T. Phillips had a good at bat to give us the lead and then made another exceptional scoop at first to complete the double play for the win. Nelson and Curt set up the rally in the eighth. We played a lot of small ball today.”
Ward went 2-3 on the afternoon with a walk and two runs scored, while Cole, J.T. Phillips and Brett DeLoach each tallied an RBI for the Bulldogs. Through his career-high six innings pitched, Boling surrendered just six hits, one earned run and one walk while striking out five.
The Bulldogs scratched one run across in the bottom of the first, as Ward and Powell recorded back-to-back singles to start the inning. With the base hit, Powell extended his hitting streak to 10 games. A fielder’s choice on the ensuing at-bat by Farmer advanced Ward to third base, and he would come home to score on an RBI single to left by Cole.
After a scoreless second inning by both teams, Liberty threatened to score in the top of the third when Dalton Britt recorded a leadoff infield single, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. Boling calmly recorded three straight outs to the first three batters in the Flames’ lineup, including a strikeout, to get the Bulldogs out of the jam.
Boling retired eight straight batters through the third, fourth and fifth innings, three of which were strikeouts. He was assisted during the streak by Farmer, who made a beautiful leaping grab at shortstop to prevent the leadoff hitter of the fifth inning, Nick Lacik, from reaching base.
Georgia loaded the bases with just one out in the fifth, as McLaughlin and Ward each drew a walk and Powell reached on a bunt single. However, a 6-4-3 double play would end the inning for the Bulldogs.
Liberty tied the game up at one run apiece in the sixth with a solo home run to left by Ryan Cordell, but Boling retired three of the next four batters to end the inning. After Boling faced one batter in the seventh, giving up a single to left, Georgia brought in Benzor in relief. Benzor retired the next three batters, including a strikeout, to end the inning and keep the game locked at 1-1.
Benzor held the Flames scoreless once again in the eighth before the Bulldogs produced two runs in the bottom half of the frame to reclaim the lead. Ward beat out an infield grounder to the pitcher for a base hit and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Powell. After an intentional walk was issued to Farmer, Cole sent a base hit into left to load the bases with just one out. Phillips, who entered the game in the sixth inning, hit a sacrifice fly to right that scored Ward, and DeLoach followed with an RBI single to left that plated Farmer to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead.
Walsh moved from right field to pitcher in the ninth inning for Georgia, surrendering two base hits to the first two batters before recording a strikeout and inducing a double play to end the game. Walsh earned his second save of the season en route to preserving the 3-1 victory.
Georgia will conclude the series with Liberty Sunday at Foley Field with first pitch set for 2 p.m.