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The Diamond Dogs’ bullpen preserved a tie to set the stage for a dramatic win in Georgia’s final at-bat on Saturday, when a walk-off RBI hit made the difference in a one-run Bulldog baseball victory.
The Red and Black drew first blood with two outs against them in the bottom of the third inning. After second baseman Nelson Ward walked, center fielder Conor Welton and shortstop Kyle Farmer belted back-to-back base hits to push a run across home plate. Western Illinois responded in the top of the following frame, also waiting until two outs were away before using three successive singles and a wild pitch to score two runs.
The Bulldogs tied the ballgame in the fifth canto, when right fielder Peter Verdin drew a leadoff walk and moved into scoring position due to an error on a failed pickoff attempt. Welton’s one-out single advanced the baserunner to third, and Verdin scored on a wild pitch with two outs away to tie the game.
There the score stood heading into the home half of the final stanza. Starter Michael Palazzone had conceded five hits and two earned runs in four innings of work, but four Georgia relievers delivered five frames of scoreless relief, combining to fan five, walk two, and concede three hits. In the last four cantos, only one Leatherneck made it as far as second base.
The Diamond Dogs’ final turn at the plate began with first baseman Colby May sending a one-out single into left field. A Western Illinois error allowed designated hitter Brett DeLoach to reach base and May to advance to third. After catcher Brandon Stephens was intentionally walked, right fielder Kevin Ruiz made the visitors pay by dropping a base hit into right field to plate the winning run.
In an outing that featured a trio of errors, each team stranded eight baserunners. Welton went three for four, but, curiously, neither scored nor batted in a run. Georgia is 3-0 in one-run games in 2012.