Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dawgs Stay Alive


Alex Wood pitched eight strong innings and Levi Hyams went 4-for-5 to lead Georgia to a 7-3 win over Arkansas-Little Rock Saturday in an NCAA Regional elimination game at Goss Stadium.

Hyams set the tone for the Dawgs when he led off the game with a solo home run on a 3-2 pitch. It was his fifth blast of the season. Incidentally, it marked the first time a Dawg began a contest with a home run since Zach Cone did it in the 2009 NCAA Tallahassee (Fla.) Regional against Ohio State. The Dawgs eventually loaded the bases with two outs before right-hander Calvin Drinnen retired third baseman Curt Powell on a groundout. It was the first action for Powell who missed the last three games due to a cracked bone in his left hand. Powell was hit by a Matt Price (South Carolina) pitch in the SEC Tournament last Friday in Hoover, Alabama.

“I was just trying to square it up today and not do too much,” said Hyams. “It was kind of nice to do that (leadoff home run). I haven’t done that before, and it was good to get an early run on the board for us.”

The Trojans (24-34) threatened in the third on back-to-back base hits by Cameron Bentley and Greg Garcia. Wood fell behind Myles Parma 2-0 and then spun around and fired a strike to shortstop Kyle Farmer to pick off Bentley at second. It was a team-high sixth pickoff for Wood. He retired the next two hitters to keep it 1-0.

“Kyle and I have worked on that play a lot this year, and it’s worked for us a few times,” said Wood on the pickoff. “It’s a good way to cut down on the pressure in an inning.”

Georgia (32-31) gave itself some breathing room with a four-run outburst in the fifth. Hyams collected his third hit of the afternoon on a line drive that knocked the glove off of Drinnen and the ball came out. Hyams made it to third on a stolen base and a fielder’s choice and scored on a run-scoring single by Cone. With two on and one out, designated hitter Brett DeLoach launched a three-run home run to right to make it 5-0 Georgia. It was the fifth home run of the year for the sophomore.

The Trojans came right back in their half of the fifth. Four straight two-out hits plus a wild pitch resulted in three runs, highlighted by an RBI-single by Parma and a two-run single by Jason Houston. It trimmed their deficit to 5-3.

Georgia responded with a two-run rally of its own in the sixth. The Dawgs were aided by a two-out Trojan wild pitch and a failed pickoff attempt that scored the runs to push their lead to 7-3. In the frame, Hyams notched his fourth hit of the day, a bloop double that followed a leadoff double from Peter Verdin. Drinnen was lifted in the frame, allowing six runs on six hits in 5.1 innings. Georgia got a run off left-hander Ryan Jurris and then Nick Grimmett came on later in that inning and went the rest of the way.

In the eighth, Hyams’ shot at going 5-for-5 on the day ended on a diving catch by right fielder Hector Acosta. He was a triple shy of the cycle at that point too. Dawg junior left-hander Chase Hawkins pitched the ninth to preserve the victory as the game ended on a sterling defensive play by Powell at third. Wood improved to 6-7 on the year while Drinnen fell to 6-7.

“Alex was solid, very solid today, and Levi has been our go-to-guy to get us started, and he did that too,” said coach David Perno. “We played a complete game, and I was proud to see that. Arkansas-Little Rock made a run after we had our big inning, and we were able to get through that and now we look forward to playing again Sunday.”

Saturday’s victory was the 337th for Perno in his 10th season at the Georgia helm, as he moved in to second place in school history for career coaching wins, passing “Big” Jim Whatley (336-327-3). The only Dawg baseball coach with more wins is Steve Webber who amassed a record of 500-403-1 in 16 years.

Georgia will play at 4 p.m. EDT Sunday against the loser of Saturday night’s winner’s bracket game featuring No. 1 seed Oregon State and No. 2 seed Creighton. If the Dawgs win Sunday, they would play another game at 9 p.m. EDT Sunday against tonight’s OSU-Creighton winner.

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