May 30, 2008
ATHENS, Ga. _ The Lipscomb Bisons wore white shoes for the first time ever in a baseball game, but they never surrendered.
Friday afternoon at sunny and humid Foley Field the No. 4-seeded Bisons stunned a predominately red-and-black draped crowd with a 10-7 win over the host Georgia Bulldogs, the No.8 seed nationally and the No. 1 seed in the Athens Regional. The Bulldogs also were the regular season champion in the Southeastern Conference.
It is not only the first NCAA Tournament win in baseball, but the first in any sport for Lipscomb.
Saturday night at 6 the Bisons will face No. 2-seeded Georgia Tech, an 8-5 winner over No.3-seed Louisville. Georgia and Louisville will play at 2 with the loser eliminated from the regional.
"Wow, I don't know where to start describing how proud I am of these guys," said second-year Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand. "Coming in here against a team like Georgia all you want is a chance at the end."
For two years the Bisons players had hounded Forehand about adding white shoes to what the team could wear. Forehand had resisted, but promised they could wear them if they qualified for an NCAA Regional. The new wardrobe addition paid off.
The Bisons wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. With two outs in the first inning Caleb Joseph slammed a solo home run approximately 375 feet over the left center field fence.
Georgia came back strong in their part of the first inning. Ryan Peisel opened with a single to right field. Lipscomb starter Rex Brothers sat the next two batters down before the Bulldogs struck for four runs.
The Bisons started chipping away at the Georgia lead with one run in the second. With one out right fielder Shane Simpkins singled up the middle. Third baseman Branden Cadavid singled through the right side of the field. Second baseman Ben Williams hit a high fly to shallow left field that he stretched into a double. Simpkins scored from third on the play.
In the third center fielder Allen Bolden led off with a walk. Joseph flied out to center. Left fielder Blake Bratcher sent a pitch from Georgia starter Stephen Dodson onto the kudzu-covered hillside beyond the right field fence.
"Coach Forehand stressed to us attacking every inning and having good at bats," Bratcher said. "We knew Dodson throws a lot of fastballs and throws strikes. We were real aggressive and got some big hits."
In the fifth the Bisons struck for four more runs. Bolden walked to lead off the inning. Joseph singled to center field. Bratcher followed with a single to center field to score Bolden. Designated hitter Justin Sanders then grounded out to second base to send Joseph across the plate. With two outs first baseman Ryan Wilkins pounded a two-run home run to left field that traveled more than 360 feet over the fence and through a grove of trees in the parking lot that also scored Bratcher.
The Bisons weren't through scoring. In the sixth they added another run. Second baseman Ben Williams led off with a walk. Shortstop JoJo Gutierrez put down a sacrifice fly that was mishandled by the pitcher allowing him to go to first base. Bolden followed with a sacrifice bunt that moved Williams to third and Gutierrez to second. Joseph was intentionally walked to load the bases. Williams then scored on a wild pitch.
Bratcher was hit by a pitch to lead off the ninth. Sanders singled to right field moving Bratcher to third. Wilkins hit a sacrifice fly to left field that allowed Bratcher to score.
The Bisons finished with 10 hits. Joseph, Bratcher and Cadavid each had two hits, Bratcher and Wilkins both finished with three runs batted in.
Dodson pitched 4.2 innings for Georgia giving up nine hits and eight runs, all earned. He walked two and struck out four. Left-hander Alex McRee threw 3.2 innings and allowed one hit and two runs. He struck out three and walked two. Right-hander Justin Grimm closed out the game for Georgia pitching the final two-thirds of an inning.
Dodson fell to 5-4.
After the four-inning first the Bulldogs didn't score again until the sixth inning when Peisel, who led Georgia's 13-hit attack with three hits, knocked a two-run homer to right field.
Georgia added one more in the eighth.
"You have to tip your cap to the Lipscomb team," said Peisel. "They came in here, played well and did their thing. We started coming back, but we just ran out of time."
Brothers raised his record to 4-5, pitching 5.1 innings. He allowed nine hits, six runs (two earned), walked four and struck out three.
"I feel confident playing against anybody," said Brothers. "I know that we can put up runs and that we can pitch really well.
"My job is to keep us in the game. After the first inning I settled down, made some good pitches and kept throwing strikes. The biggest thing was overcoming the mental side."
Right-hander Chris Burnett came on in relief and pitched two innings. He scattered three hits and gave up one run. He struck out one batter.
Right-hander Kyle Tognazzini closed out the game pitching 1.2 innings. He gave up one hit and did not allow a run. Tognazzini was credited with the save, his fourth of the season.
"I felt confident in our team after getting out of the first inning and battling back and scoring some runs," said Forehand. "We really settled in. Our pitching got better. We kept our composure and we were able to battle back and win this huge game."