Baseball Falls in Extra Innings To Georgia, Ends Season 45-16

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Greg Hellhake concluded his senior season with 6.1 innings of 2-run ball.
Courtesy: Eric Francis

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Defensive replacement Brandon Stephens delivered a two-out single in the bottom of the 11th inning as the Georgia baseball team eliminated No. 25 Creighton from the 2011 NCAA Tournament with a 5-4, 11-inning victory over the Bluejays on Sunday afternoon.

The Bulldogs move into the Regional final against No. 13 Oregon State tonight at 8 pm. Georgia (33-31) will need to beat the Beavers tonight as well as tomorrow night at advance to Super Regionals, where the Corvallis Regional winner meets the Nashville Regional victor. Creighton, which had beaten Georgia 2-1 on Friday to open NCAA play, ends its season with a 45-16 mark.

Creighton scored first with a run in the top of the first against Georgia starter Ben Cornwell. Nick Judkins walked to open the game but was quickly erased by an Alex Staehely double-play ball. Trever Adams started a two-out rally when he was plunked in the back. He stole second on Cornwell's next delivery, and later advanced to third when Cornwell's pickoff throw ended up in centerfield. Adams scored the game's first run when Jimmy Swift stroked a single up the middle.

Georgia answered Creighton's score with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. With two away, Kyle Farmer doubled. Preseason All-American Zach Cone then cranked Greg Hellhake's 1-2 offering over the left-field wall to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. The homer was Cone's fourth of the season, and the first allowed in 65.2 innings of work this season by Hellhake.

The bottom of the Creighton order helped tie the score in the top of the second inning. Consecutive singles by Clay Cuno and Mike Gerber started the frame before Gabriel Thibodeaux bunted both men over. Cuno then scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Chance Ross, knotting the score at 2-2.

Hellhake worked out of a jam in the bottom of the fifth to preserve the tie. With two on and one out, Hellhake got Curt Powell to fly out and after a walk filled the bases, Conor Welton grounded out to second.

Bryan Benzor walked the first man he faced in the eighth inning, Chance Ross, and Ross moved into scoring position. Nick Judkins then put down his 22nd sacrifice bunt of the season, tying him for the 2011 national lead and matching the MVC record set by ex-Bluejay Vince Pietro in 1999.  Staehely then ripped an RBI-double down the left field line that scored Ross with the go-ahead run. After an intentional walk to Adams, UGA went to national saves leader Tyler Maloof with just one away. Maloof got Swift to fly out, but Bemboom extended the rally with a single to center that scored Staehely and make it 4-2.

UGA tied the game in the bottom half of the eighth inning. After Mark Winkelman allowed a hit and a ground out, the Jays turned to Reese McGraw out of the pen. McGraw left a 1-2 pitch to Kyle Farmer up in the zone, and the Bulldogs leading home run hitter sent it over the wall for his eighth homer of the year, evening the score at 4-4.

Cornwell tied a career-long by throwing five innings, though he did not factor in the decision. The junior gave up five hits and two runs (one earned) while walking two and striking out four men. He gave way to Bryan Benzor to start the sixth, who faced the minimum his first two innings before running into trouble in the eighth.

Hellhake threw well, allowing two earned runs, five hits and three walks in 6.1 innings of work. He left with Jonathan Hester on first base with one down in the seventh, and Chase Webb came on to induce a 4-6-3 double play ball off the bat of Curt Powell. Webb, who threw just four pitches, was in line for the win before Farmer's home run knotted the score.

Creighton had a man in scoring position in the ninth inning after Ross walked with two outs and stole second, but Judkins grounded out to first to end the threat. In the home half of the ninth, defensive replacement Brandon Stephens singled with two outs before McGraw got Powell to chase a 1-2 pitch well off the plate and send the game to extra innings.

In the 10th inning, Adams reached with one out when he was hit-by-pitch for the second time in the game, and he moved to second base when Swift was hit with a 2-2 offering by Maloof. That threat was short-lived, however, as Bemboom grounded into an inning-ending double play.  In the UGA 10th inning, Jack VanLeur retired the first two men he faced before Bluejay closer Kurt Spomer came in to get Kyle Farmer to ground out to second.

Creighton started the 11th with Scott Thornburg pinch-hitting for Michael Blatchford. Thornburg blooped a single to left and was replaced by pinch-runner Joey Bowens at first as Georgia coach David Perno turned to Earl Daniels from the bullpen. But Bowens was caught stealing on a 2-2 pitch and Daniels retired Gerber and Thibodeaux to keep the score deadlocked.

In the bottom of the 11th, Spomer got aid from a diving catch in the right field corner by Adams that prevented a triple from Brett DeLoach for the second out. Peter Verdin singled off Spomer's glove and swiped his third base of the year to move into scoring position. With first base open, Creighton elected to intentionally walk Jonathan Hester to face Stephens. Stephens lofted a single to right and DeLoach scored easily to end the game.

Daniels improved to 1-0 with the win, while Spomer fell to 3-4 on the season.

NOTES: Trever Adams was hit by a pitch in the first inning, extending his games reached base safely streak to 45 ... Creighton went 41 outs between its last fly ball out to an outfielder, dating to the fifth inning of Friday's win over Georgia, before Ross' sacrfice fly in the top of the second inning ... After having just 2-of-18 leadoff men reach in its first two games of the Corvallis Regional, Creighton put its leadoff man in the first three innings on Sunday. It's the first time Creighton has had its leadoff men reach in each of the first three innings since May 14 at Evansville ... Creighton attempted three stolen bases in the first five innings today. The Jays entered the game 11-1 when attempting three or more steals this season ... Mike Gerber extended his hitting streak to eight with a second-inning single. It's a season-long hitting streak for the freshman ... Greg Hellhake made his 47th start as a Bluejay, breaking a tie he held with Marc Lewis for the most in the eight-year tenure of Ed Servais ... Creighton hit into a season-high four double plays. The Jays also turned three double-plays defensively, which matched a season-best ... Jack VanLeur appeared in his 35th game of the year and 115th of his career. The 115 career appearances are tied for second-most in MVC history ... Creighton entered the game 6-0 in extra-inning contests, while Georgia was 0-2 ... Creighton is now 1-3 all-time in extra-inning games in the postseason.

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