Georgia turned its recent late-inning blues into weekend party music on Saturday.
The Bulldogs rallied from a run down to beat Auburn 6-5 in 11 innings at Foley Field to clinch the series against the Tigers. Kyle Farmer brought home the game-winning run when he singled home Curt Powell with two outs in the bottom of the 11th for Georgia’s only lead of the game.
“I was just trying to hit the ball hard somewhere,” Farmer said. “I got plugged in pretty good and got ready to hit. Fortunately, I got enough barrel on the ball to loop it over the infield.”
Georgia (27-20, 11-12 Southeastern Conference) had blown leads in the eighth inning or later in four of its last five losses. The Bulldogs seemed on their way to adding to that dubious record when Auburn’s Caleb Bowen doubled home Justin Bryant to give the Tigers a 5-4 lead in the top of the 11th.
But Georgia recovered quickly in the bottom of the inning as Jonathan Hester led off with a walk and took third on Conor Welton’s one-out single. Powell went to the batter’s box, but coach David Perno called time out for a quick talk with his third baseman.
“He just told me to calm down and asked if I had it in me,” Powell said. “I think he wanted to kind of put some pressure on the pitcher (Oconee County graduate Derek Varnadore) and get him to think a little bit more. It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.”
Powell, who was 0-for-5 in the game, hit a high chopper on the infield that could have been a double play for a slower runner. Welton was thrown out at second base, but Hester scored as Powell beat the throw to first that would have ended the game. That throw from Auburn shortstop Dan Glevenyak went wide, which enabled Powell to take second with two outs and Farmer due up.
“I just wanted to clear (Powell’s) head because he’d had some frustrating at-bats,” Perno said. “Curt can sometimes be hard on himself. I wanted to make sure he understood the situation and also we were thinking about push bunting at that point. I wanted to make certain we got Kyle to the plate and didn’t hit into a double play. Curt runs well and he did a good job of hustling that out to make sure we didn’t get into that double play.”
Farmer has been Georgia’s RBI leader all season. He had almost ended the game in the ninth when he smashed a line drive that was caught by Auburn first baseman Garrett Cooper and knocked him down in the process. When Farmer came up in the 11th with first base open, Auburn declined the intentional walk and he looped a single over the infield to bring home Powell with the game-winning run. Farmer went 3-for-6 with two RBIs in the game.
“That’s just how things work,” Farmer said. “The baseball gods work in mysterious ways. That’s how it is and it felt good to finally break through that barrier.”
Georgia will look for the sweep against Auburn with Game 3 starting at 2 p.m. today at Foley Field. Georgia’s probable starter is right-hander Luke Crumley (1-2, 4.44). Auburn (25-21, 10-13) has not announced a probable starter yet.
Bryan Benzor gave up three hits and one run in one inning but picked up the win to improve to 5-4. Varnadore (2-7) pitched the final 5 2-3 innings for Auburn, allowing five hits and four runs (three earned) with three walks and six strikeouts to take the loss.
Auburn outfielder Justin Bryant went 4-for-4 with a solo home run to lead the Tigers’ offense. Creede Simpson also went 3-for-5 with a solo homer.
Georgia lost late-inning leads twice at LSU last weekend, another to Georgia Tech at Turner Field and dropped a 16-inning marathon at Florida two weeks ago.
“We’re not playing at Florida and at LSU, we’re playing in Athens,” Perno said. “It’s good for the confidence. We’re playing well, we really are. We’re pitching about as good as we can pitch. We’re getting hits, we’ve just got to get a few more timely hits. We’re playing good defense. We’re taking care of the ball. We’re into it. We’re doing a lot of good things and you need to get rewarded, and today was a good reward for our guys.”