June 1, 2008
ATHENS, Ga. _ The Lipscomb Bisons didn't earn the championship in the Athens Regional of the NCAA Tournament, but they did earn a great deal of respect and recognition as a baseball team that deserved to be among the top 64 in the country.
The 2008 season ended for the Bisons in a sun-splashed Sunday afternoon here at Foley Field with a 14-3 loss to the top-seeded Georgia Bulldogs. The Bisons were faced with a formidable challenge. They had beaten the Bulldogs on their home field 10-7 Friday. A 6-3 loss to Georgia Tech forced a rematch with the Bulldogs, the Southeastern Conference regular season champion and the No. 8 seed nationally in the tournament.
"Everybody saw why they are the SEC Champs," said Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand. "They came out and had a great approach and got on the board early. They kept attacking us from the beginning.
"When Georgia got its bats going against Louisville Saturday night we knew we were going to have to score some runs. They saw what was on the line for them and the SEC Champs came out and played above average."
The Bisons had their backs against the wall early. Starter Mike Dunn gave up eight hits and six runs in the first two innings.
In the third the Bisons pushed one run across the plate. Third baseman Branden Cadavid led off with an infield single to third base. Shortstop Jorge Gutierrez doubled to left field pushing Cadavid to third. Center fielder Allen Bolden grounded out to bring Cadavid home with the Bisons first run of the game.
The Bulldogs added a pair of runs in the fourth as designated hitter Bryce Massanari slammed a two-out home run to center. Also scoring was right fielder Matt Olson who singled to right field to open the inning.
The Bisons added another run in the fourth. Left fielder Blake Bratcher doubled to left field for his second hit of the game. Designated hitter Justin Sanders singled to right to move Bratcher to third. First baseman Ryan Wilkins flied out to center sending Bratcher across the plate.
Dunn pitched to one batter in the fifth, as Miles Starr singled past shortstop Jorge Gutierrez. Josh Smith entered the game at that point and gave up a single to third baseman Ryan Piesel. Olson singled to right field to score Starr. First baseman Rich Poythress hit a three-run home run to left center to score both Piesel and Olson.
In the fifth the Bisons added their third run. Second baseman Ben Williams led off with a double to left center. He went to third as Gutierrez grounded out. Bolden was credited with his second RBI of the game on a single to left that scored Williams.
Georgia put up two more runs in the ninth.
The Bisons were credited with nine hits, eight off of Georgia starter Nathan Moreau. Three Bisons had two hits in the game _ Bratcher, Cadavid and Ben Williams.
"Moreau pounded the strike zone and threw a lot of strikes," said Bratcher. "His off-speed stuff was very good. We stayed aggressive, but stuff just wouldn't fall from us.
"In an elimination game like we put it all on the line. It didn't come out our way."
Five Bisons pitchers scattered 21 hits against the Bulldogs. Starter Mike Dunn, who took the loss, allowed 11 hits and nine runs in four innings. Josh Smith came on in relief and gave up seven hits and three runs in four innings. Chris Burnett, Matt Bowling and Paul Piennette each pitched one-third of an inning to close out the game for the Bisons.
"The first game we had a lot of emotion still from our conference tournament, and Georgia was coming off a couple of games where they didn't play as well as they were capable," Forehand said. "They know how to score, how to swing the bats and they did great at that."
The Bisons finished the season with a 33-30 record.
"We have a great team and great coaches here at Lipscomb," said Josh Smith. "We certainly had our fair share of ups and downs this season from the conference tournament to this game. We are still looking forward to where we can go from here."