ATHENS, Ga. – The Lipscomb baseball team gave up a two-run lead in the ninth inning and went on to drop a 9-8 decision in 11 innings Friday night against the University of Georgia at Foley Field.
The bullpen coughed up the late lead after the Bisons had battled their way back from an early deficit to position themselves within two outs of taking a series-opening win against the Bulldogs.
“There was a lot of good tonight, but we just couldn’t close the game out” Lipscomb skipper Jeff Forehand said. “I feel like if you score eight runs against a team like that, you put yourself in a position to win. We just didn’t do it.
“It’s like I told our guys on the bus, ‘you have to learn from this, move on and come back out ready to play tomorrow.”
Georgia (10-5) took the early advantage, touching Lipscomb starter Cody Glenn for four runs in the first inning. Of the 10 batters who came to the plate for the Dawgs, nine of them came away with productive at-bats.
A leadoff single from right fielder Skyler Weber was followed by an RBI-double from All-American candidate Stephen Wrenn. The Bulldogs worked Glenn for three more runs on a couple more hits, three walks and two sacrifice flies to take a 4-0 lead and chase the southpaw from the game.
Senior Kyle Weller took over in relief to start the second inning and knew exactly what he needed to do – eat up innings and throw strikes. He did just that.
The Springfield, Illinois native kept the UGA offense off-balance all night. After hitting the first batter he faced, Weller retired 14 of the next 15, including 11 straight. The only blemish was a titanic solo shot from Keegan McGovern in the sixth.
Weller finished the night with 5.1 innings pitched. He gave up one earned run on two hits and a career high 10 punch outs.
“Weller really picked us up,” Forehand said as he glances over the box score. “He had 10 strikeouts, wow. That is all I can really say.”
Facing a potential Major League Baseball first-rounder in UGA’s Robert Tyler, Lipscomb knew the task would be tall coming into the game. The junior right hander entered the game as the SEC’s leader in strikeouts with 28 and ranked fourth in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings at 14.81 while throwing more innings than anyone else in the top 10.
After reaching base just three times in the first four innings of play and trailing 4-0, the Bisons (9-5) finally touched Tyler in the top of the fifth.
Zeke Dodson and Chucky Vazquez recorded back-to-back singles before freshman and hometown boy Cade Sorrells singled through the left side to bring home Dodson and put the Purple and Gold on the scoreboard. Hunter Hanks then dropped a bunt to move the runners over, but a bad throw from UGA’s Robert Tyler pulled the first baseman off the bag and just like that the bases were loaded.
Following a Michael Gigliotti strikeout, Lee Solomon singled to right field to plate Vazquez and set the stage for senior first baseman Adam Lee. "Stick" launched a four-run blast over the 370-foot sign in left center to put the Bisons on top 6-4 and chase Tyler from the game.
“We got off to a rough start, but we all knew it was very early in the game,” Lee said. “Weller came in there and really pitched well in order to limit them and allow our offense to get us back in the game.
“Luckily I had a couple at-bats against Tyler and was able to get a feel for him. He threw me a good pitch and I put a good swing on it. I feel pretty locked in right now. As long as I am putting the bat on the ball and driving guys in, I am doing my job.”
McGovern’s solo homer trimmed the Lipscomb lead to 6-5 in Georgia’s half of the sixth, but the Bisons’ bats continued to make contact and swung the momentum back in their favor.
Gigliotti laid a perfectly placed bunt down the edge of the grass on the third base line to record his ninth bunt single of the year to lead off the top of the seventh. He used his wheels to swipe an Atlantic Sun Conference leading ninth stolen base of the season, before wisely taking third after the throw from the catcher careens beyond the infield dirt.
He came around the bend two batters later on a single to center from Lee – his career-high fifth RBI of the night.
In the bottom of the seventh, Georgia took advantage of a dropped fly ball by freshman Von Watson in left. Wrenn ripped a one-out single to left field to score Weber and cut the Bison lead to 7-6.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Kemp entered the contest with two men on base and one out. He quickly got out of the trouble with back-to-back strikeouts.
Lipscomb, however, would once again answer. Sorrells stepped up in front of friends and family in the stands and dropped a two-out double inside the left field line for his third hit of the game. Hanks then doubled off the wall in left to score the final tally for the Bisons.
“It feels great to be back home, this is what I have been waiting for,” said Sorrells. “The first at-bat I definitely had butterflies in my stomach. But after getting the first base hit it slowed things down for me and the game really eased up.
“Everyone saw tonight what our offense can do. We just have to keep our heads up and keep moving forward.”
Leading 8-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Coach Forehand turned to closer Dalton Curtis. After punching out the first batter, he gave up a single and walked the next two before handing the ball over to Alex Dorso. The next batter drove in two with a single to right field to level the score at 8-8 and send the contest to extra innings.
The Bison bullpen simply did not have it in extras. In the bottom of the 11th the Purple and Gold used three arms and did not record an out. Two walks and a hit by pitch juiced the bases before a four-pitch walk brought home the winning run to complete the walk-off for the Red and Black.
Junior reliever Dallas Gibson took the loss and dropped to 0-2 on the year. He pitched two-thirds of an inning and gave up one run on a walk and a hit batter.
Sorrells paced the Lipscomb offense, finishing the game 3-for-4 with a double and a momentum-shifting RBI.
“Such a great game from Cade,” Forehand said. “Someone had to step up in Tevin’s (Symonette) absence and he did tonight. It made it that much more special that he was back close to home. We are excited for him and ready to see what he can do tomorrow.”
Around the Herd:
- Friday’s tilt marked the first extra-inning affair of the season for Lipscomb.
- Lipscomb now trails in the all-time series 2-1.
- Gigliotti extended his on-base streak to 46 games with his bunt single in the seventh.
- Kemp tossed 1.2 frames. He struck out two and walked one without allowing a hit.
- Hanks’ three-bagger in the third was his fifth career triple.
- The Bisons entered the contest with the third most walks in the country at 80. Friday they managed a season low, one.
- With four stolen bases in the loss, Lipscomb pushed its alread impressive total to 33.
- Four Bisons had multiple hits, led by Sorrells’ three. Hanks, Solomon and Lee all had two.
- Gigliotti and Solomon added to their league-leading stolen base totals Friday, picking up No. 9 and No. 8, respectively.
- Eight arms threw out of the Lipscomb bullpen. All eight surrendered at least one walk.
The Bisons must put this game behind them and get ready to return to action Saturday at 1:05 p.m. Sophomore right hander Jeffrey Passantino (3-0, 2.89 ERA) will toe the rubber for Lipscomb. UGA will counter with senior righty Connor Jones (0-1, 3.07 ERA).
“If I had the remedy of how to get this loss out of our head I would really implement it right now,” Forehand said. “I told the guys we won every facet of the game except on the scoreboard. The good thing about baseball is you can bounce back quickly.”