Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Late-inning dramatics lead to wins for baseball and softball

Friday May 22, 2009

It was a rough start for the softball team in the opening game of the Super Regional. The starting pitcher struggled with control and had to be replaced in the first inning. Ohio State was limited to a single run, but they added three more on a 3-run home run in the 3rd. A 4-0 deficit is usually trouble at this level of softball, but the host Bulldogs exploded for five runs in the 5th and added an insurance run in the 6th for a 6-4 win.

Georgia and Ohio State will play again at 4:30 on Friday afternoon (ESPN2) in Athens. If Georgia wins, the Super Regional is over, and it’s on to Oklahoma City and the WCWS for the first time in program history. If Ohio State wins, the two teams will turn around and play a deciding game around 6:30.

Thanks to an extra-inning win, the Diamond Dawgs will have plenty of time to tune in to the softball games if they wish. Georgia earned a valuable day off with a tight 2-1 win over Arkansas, and they advance through the winner’s bracket into Saturday’s semifinal.

The game was a showcase of pitching and defense. Bulldog starter Trevor Holder was masterful in his hometown. Holder allowed just three hits through eight innings and at one point retired 15 batters in a row. With Georgia up 1-0, Holder was given the chance to close out the game in the 9th but allowed a pair of cheap singles and was replaced by closer Dean Weaver. Weaver inherited runners at first and third with no one out and retired the next three batters, but a long flyout was enough to plate the tying run.

Georgia couldn’t answer in the bottom of the 9th, and Weaver got out of a little trouble in the top of the 10th. The bottom of the 10th got off to a positive start with a Cerione single. Cerione advanced to third on a Poythress double, and Massanari was intentionally walked to get to Joey Lewis who had struggled so far in Hoover.

Lewis needed to make contact of some kind, and he delivered with a sharp grounder that was fielded by the third baseman. The throw home was wide though, and Cerione scored the winning run.

Though the final play earned Georgia the win, it was very nearly a disastrous blown call that would have added some controversy to the outcome. After spearing Lewis’s grounder, replays showed that the Arkansas third baseman touched third base with his throwing hand while the ball was in his glove. That should have retired Poythress on the force at third but removed the force on Cerione running home. The Arkansas catcher should have been required to tag Cerione. But the call at home plate seemed to be that the catcher’s foot was pulled off the plate. That’s only a call you make if you believe the force was still in effect at home. Cerione was safe regardless; the catcher was pulled off the plate, and no tag was applied. It would have been interesting though to see how the call was handled if the catcher was able to keep his foot on the plate – I think everyone from the umps to the TV broadcast missed the 3B touching the bag.

Most Bulldog hitters struggled against the Arkansas pitching, but the bright spot was Rich Poythress going 3-for-5. Poythress has seen his average drop by nearly 50 points over the last month to “only” .378, and it hasn’t helped the struggling Bulldogs that their biggest bat was also slumping. Hopefully he can keep this up and be the catalyst that sparks a run through the postseason. Georgia’s experienced players from last season’s amazing postseason came through in the 10th with Cerione’s leadoff hit, Poythress’s big double, and Lewis’s hot shot that won the game.

Georgia gets the day off on Friday waiting on any one of three teams to emerge from the loser’s bracket. They’ll play at 2:30 ET on Saturday with the game televised by Fox Sports South. If they win that game, they’re on to Sunday’s championship game. If not, they’ll play the same team again in a rubber game Saturday evening.

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