See also: Game Two Box Score
See also: ACC Takes A Big Tumble On Day One
OMAHA—Miami followed its regular formula for success in its first game in the 2008 College World Series, and found the template didn’t work. But Georgia’s usual formula, relying on its hard-throwing bullpen, came through.
The Hurricanes got three home runs to take a 4-3 lead into the ninth, then handed the ball and the game to righthander Carlos Gutierrez, the Twins’ first-round pick (27th overall).
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Point: DH Robbie O’Bryan swung through a pitch in the dirt for a third strike, but the ball squibbed between Yasmani Grandal’s legs. Instead of the second out in the ninth, Georgia got to have runners at first and third with two outs, and Lyle Allen followed with a game-tying single. A shaken Gutierrez threw away a groundball for a two-run, three-base error to give Georgia the lead.
Gutierrez entered with 13 saves but couldn’t close this one out. Georgia took advantage of a third strike/wild pitch to put runners on the corners, got a game-tying single from freshman left fielder Lyle Allen, and broke the tie when Gutierrez threw the ball away fielding a slow roller to the mound.
The Bulldogs’ own first-round closer, hard-throwing righthander Joshua Fields (20th overall, Mariners), closed the game out in the bottom of the ninth as the Bulldogs beat the tournament’s No. 1 seed, winning 7-4.
It was the first time in 2008 Miami had lost a game when leading after eight innings; the Hurricanes entered the game with a 45-0 record in such situations, while Georgia was just 1-20-1 when trailing after eight.
None of that matters now that the Bulldogs have ended the six-game losing streak of Southeastern Conference teams in CWS play. Georgia meets Stanford on Monday for the first time since 1992; the two programs famously met twice in the 1990 CWS, with Georgia beating Mike Mussina and the Cardinal twice on its way to its only national championship.
With the loss, meanwhile, Atlantic Coast Conference rivals Miami and Florida State will face each other Monday in an unlikely elimination game.
“We’ve got to swing the bats better, especially with runners in scoring position, and we’ve got to close out the game at the end,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “If it comes down to that situation (against Florida State), we’ll do things exactly the same way.”
Well, perhaps Morris wouldn’t change the pitcher he uses, but he sure would like to change the result. Georgia catcher Bryce Massanari greeted Gutierrez with a single to start the ninth, and pinch-runner Adam Fuller moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Gutierrez’s sinker got DH Robbie O’Bryan swinging for a third strike, but the ball got by catcher Yasmani Grandal, far enough for O’Bryan to reach first easily. Instead of having two outs and the tying run at second, Georgia was in business, with runners at the corners and just one out.
Allen followed with a single to left that fell just in front of charging outfielder Adan Severino, tying the game, and second baseman David Thoms followed with a slow roller back to the mound. Gutierrez fielded it cleanly but threw wildly, with the ball caroming off the wall in foul ground down the first-base side and toward the Georgia bullpen. By the time right fielder Dennis Raben retrieved it and threw back to the infield, two Georgia runners had scored, giving the Bulldogs a 6-4 lead, and Thoms was on third.
“The big key for us was keeping it close,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “We’ve been good at getting the big inning all year, and we were fortunate they made a big mistake there, and we took advantage of it.”
Senior third baseman Ryan Peisel followed with his third hit of the night, a single that scored Thoms for the final margin of victory. Peisel drove in four of Georgia’s seven runs, with an RBI single in the third with two outs and a two-run homer to left in the sixth inning. Both of those hits tied the game, and the four RBIs were a fitting birthday gift for Peisel, who turned 22 Saturday.
“Peisel has been huge for us all year,” said Fields, a third-team All-American who picked up his third win to go with 16 saves. “He’s been our emotional leader.
“All our seniors have been huge—our right fielder (Matt) Olson has been terrific in the postseason, and (Jake) Crane, who caught the last inning, he’s been out there for 99 percent of the time when I pitch this year. I guess you could say he’s my personal catcher, and he knows how to calm me down or get me going.”
Whatever Crane does has worked for Fields, who was dominant Saturday finishing up a strong effort by Georgia’s renowned bullpen. Miami scored three runs in the first three innings off Georgia starter Trevor Holder, getting a solo homer in the first by Jemile Weeks (his 12th homer) and a two-run shot from Blake Tekotte (his 12th as well) in the third. But the ‘Canes also stranded four runners in scoring position in Holder’s four innings of work.
“We have to get to their starter, and we didn’t do it,” Tekotte said. “We’ve got to bring the bats. We’ve got to get greedy, especially when we have runners in scoring position.”
When Holder came out, Georgia’s bullpen took over. Lefthander Alex McRee, effectively wild working off an 89-92 mph fastball, got eight outs and pitched so well that Perno decided to let him go after Miami first baseman Yonder Alonso, even though his game plan was to not let Alonso be the game’s deciding factor. Alonso crushed a fastball the other way for a solo homer, his 24th, giving Miami a 4-3 lead. Righty Dean Weaver held Miami there for another inning until Fields came on to finish the eighth, striking out DH David DiNatale on a 2-2 spike curveball that he called one of the better breaking balls he’s thrown all year.
That set the stage for Georgia’s ninth-inning rally, and in the bottom half, Fields got three flyouts to clinch the victory.
“That was always the plan—I wanted to get all three of those guys out there, with the day off (Sunday), get their confidence, get their feet wet,” Perno said. “I was hoping to wait until the sixth . . . I was kicking myself (after Alonso’s homer), but I’m fortunate that Josh and those guys picked me up in the end.”