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THE GAME AT A GLANCE
Turning Point: Georgia finally broke through against Rice pitching with four runs in the top of the seventh, but Rice answered right back with four of its own in the bottom of the inning thanks to consecutive hits by Greg Buchanan, Brian Friday, Josh Rodriguez and Joe Savery.
The Hero: Savery reached base in all four plate appearances, logging three singles and a walk. His two-run single to center field in the seventh put the Owls ahead for good.
You May Not Have Noticed: Yes, Eddie Degerman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but his eight walks caused his pitch count to soar and his outing to be cut short. Closer Cole St.Clair relieved him in the seventh but faced just two batters without registering an out, placing the onus on righthanded reliever Bryce Cox to finish the game. He got the Owls out of a jam in the seventh, then worked two perfect innings to pick up the win. Cox registered only one strikeout but induced six ground outs to silence the Bulldogs.
OMAHA–All the pieces were falling into place for another one of Georgia’s patented comebacks. The Bulldogs weathered six no-hit innings by Eddie Degerman, scored four runs to claim their first lead in the seventh and had ace setup man Rip Warren on the mound.
But Rice proved it could come from behind just as successfully, matching the four runs Georgia scored in the top of the seventh inning with four of its own in the bottom half to retake the lead at 6-4. The Owls didn’t allow another Georgia baserunner, snuffing out any hope of another comeback to earn the win in front of 19,885 spectators Saturday afternoon at Rosenblatt Stadium.
“We’ve come back at least 10 times that I can count this year,” said Rice third baseman Josh Rodriguez, who went 2-for-4 with two runs. “All year, we’ve been able to keep our composure and answer back. We knew games like that would help us out in the long run, and it showed today.”
Rice (56-11) strung together four consecutive hits with one out in the seventh to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 advantage. First baseman Joe Savery delivered a two-run single to help Rice reclaim the lead, and right fielder Jordan Dodson singled home Savery with an insurance run three batters later.
“The thinking was they only have one hit off Eddie and they’re leading this game. There’s no reason we should be losing this game,” said Savery, who went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs. “We’re down and we’ve got to start now if we’re going to win. We’ve got to get in gear.”
Early on it didn’t look like Rice would need any sort of comeback. Rice led 2-0 and Degerman hadn’t allowed Georgia (47-22) a hit through six innings. Then the first-team All-American opened the seventh by walking two batters. An out later, third baseman Ryan Piesel slapped a single back up the middle and drove in Georgia’s first run of the game. That ended Degerman’s day. He struck out nine batters, but also walked a season-high eight, running his pitch count to 116.
“It didn’t really feel like a no-hitter with so many walks,” said Degerman, who was bidding for the first no-hitter at the College World Series since Jim Wixson threw one for Oklahoma State in 1960.
Rice coach Wayne Graham said he wouldn’t have pulled Degerman had he kept the no-hitter intact, but he trusted the power arms in his bullpen to finish the job.
First-team All-American closer Cole St.Clair allowed hits to both batters he faced as Georgia went ahead 3-2. It took the lead on a Joey Side RBI single against Bryce Cox. Cox (5-1) ended the inning without allowing another run, then buzzed through the final two innings without allowing a baserunner.
“He’s throwing wonderful baseball,” Graham said. “It’s a tribute to Georgia that they only struck out once against him because he’s throwing great stuff and a lot of strikes.”
Warren (8-3) couldn’t deliver the same type of outing for Georgia. He ended a Rice threat in the sixth inning, getting out of a two-on, one-out jam with an ground ball to shortstop and a strikeout, but allowed five hits and four runs the next inning. Warren hadn’t allowed more than three runs in an outing over his previous 29 appearances on the season.
“We got exactly what we wanted,” Georgia coach Dave Perno said. “We got our big inning. They have a good staff and you can’t nickel and dime them, so we knew we had to strike and strike big. Then for Rip (to get hit hard), that’s abnormal. It hasn’t happened all year.”
Lost in the dual comebacks and no-hit bid by Degerman was a strong start by Georgia righthander Brooks Brown. He didn’t allow a hit until Savery singled in the fourth inning. Brown worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits.
“Just when you thought they were down and out, they had an answer to everything we had,” Perno said. “They did a great job coming back.”