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Error in 10th sends Georgia past FSU 8-7

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 3, 2001


ATHENS, Ga. -- Late comebacks are becoming routine for Georgia.

The Bulldogs won again in their final at-bat, beating Florida State 8-7 Saturday in Game 1 of an NCAA Super Region when Seminoles third baseman Scott Toole misplayed a grounder in the 10th inning.

Georgia was down to its last out a week ago before Jeff Keppinger homered to beat Coastal Carolina in region play.

Now, the Bulldogs are one victory from the College World Series after winning for the 16th time in their final at-bat -- including three of the past four in the NCAA Tournament.

"It's almost unbelievable what's happened to us this year," coach Ron Polk said. "I guess we're good enough to keep it close. It's not something you coach. We just have guys who believe they can do it."

Actually, Florida State spent most of the day showing off its comeback skills. The Seminoles overcame deficits of 2-0, 5-2 and 6-5, scoring two runs in the top of the ninth to go ahead 7-6.

But closer Justin Lord, seeking his 12th save, couldn't hold the lead.

Adam Swann doubled with one out and pinch-hitter Blake Bodenmiller, a redshirt freshman, followed with a run-scoring double to left to tie.

After Jody Friedman pitched his second scoreless inning, Georgia finally finished off the Seminoles in the 10th.

Andy Neufeld walked against Lord with one out, then stole second while Matt Cavender was striking out on a 3-and-2 pitch. Keppinger was walked intentionally before Swann hit a routine grounder toward Toole, who came into the game in the ninth after the Seminoles pinch hit for starter Chris Hart.

Toole ranged to his left but the ball kicked off the heel of his glove, rolling into short leftfield for an error as Neufeld came around with the winning run.

"I feel bad when a kid makes an error that turns the ballgame," Polk said. "I'm sure he makes that play most of the time."

The Bulldogs can advance to the College World Series for the first time since 1990 -- when they won their only national championship -- by winning today's game in the best-of-three series.

The series started a day late because of a storm on Friday. If necessary, Game 3 would be played Monday.

Florida State must win two in a row to reach Omaha for a school-record fourth year in a row. The Seminoles, playing in the NCAAs for the 24th year in a row, have never won a national title.

"We've had our ups and downs," outfielder Karl Jernigan said. "This team is capable of coming back. It's not going to be easy with Georgia on their home field and winning a big game like this. They have the momentum."

Florida State scored two runs in the sixth to wipe out Georgia's first lead and three more in the eighth to pull even again, highlighted by Nick Rogers' two-out, two-run homer to centerfield.

Georgia went back on top in the bottom of the eighth when Tony Burchett hit a run-scoring single, only to have the Seminoles rally for their first lead of the day.

Jernigan and Jeff Probst led off with back-to-back doubles, bringing home the tying run, and Ryan Barthelemy put Florida State on top with a sacrifice fly.

"When you've had a big ninth inning ... and your closer is out there, you have to feel good about it," Jernigan said. "But Georgia has shown all year long that they'll come back fighting. We knew it would not be easy."

Burchett and Jody Pollock, the last two hitters in the Bulldogs order, combined for five hits and three RBI. Georgia had 15 hits overall against six pitchers.

Rogers had three of the Seminoles' 11 hits.

Georgia starter Jeremy Brown allowed two runs and six hits in 52/3 innings, only to have Jeffery Carswell, the team's best reliever, get pounded for five hits and five runs in 21/3 innings.

The game was played before a record 4,290 at Foley Field, about 1,000 more than capacity. That did not include several hundred more fans who watched from a back yard overlooking rightfield.

"They're very enthusiastic out there," quipped Rogers, who plays rightfield for the Seminoles. "I'm just glad I hit the ball. They weren't saying anything too bad."

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