GREENWOOD, S.C. – The University of North Georgia baseball team gave the fifth-ranked Lander University Bearcats all they could handle Sunday afternoon as the Saints held a 5-4 lead heading into the final half inning of play. That's when the Bearcats pounced with three hits, including a walk-off single by Chris Hyatt with bases loaded, to score two runs to claim the series 2-1 with a 6-5 decision in game-three.
With the loss, the Saints fall to 4-11 overall and start their 2013 Peach Belt Conference slate with a 1-2 record while the No. 5 Bearcats improve to 14-3 overall and 8-1 in conference action. The Bearcats currently hold the top spot in the league standings.
The game progressed scoreless through the first three and a half innings of play. Lander then plated the first two runs of the game with single runs in the fourth and fifth frames.
Down 2-0, North Georgia answered in the top of the sixth with Jake McCurry and Derek Hooper each crossing the plate. McCurry scored off a single to center field by Jesse Strickland with Tremayne Toorie knocking Hooper in with a shot to the third baseman.
The two teams then each scored two runs in the eighth inning to enter the final frame with the score knotted at 4-4.
After Brett Wright was walked to lead off the inning, the Saints played some small ball with Strickland laying down a sacrifice bunt to move Wright into scoring position. Hooper then singled to the gap in left-center field following a pitching change to give Wright enough time to cruise home and take the lead back for North Georgia.
But it would not last as the Bearcats rallied for the win in the bottom of the frame behind doubles by Connor Lewis and Weston Lawing. Hyatt then batted in the game-winning run with bases loaded as the Saints had attempted to get the force-out at home, but Hyatt placed the ball out of the infield, giving the Bearcats the win.
Nick Bader (0-1) accepted the loss for the Saints in his first decision of the season while Jeremy Jansen came in during the ninth to claim his second win of the year.
North Georgia will remain on the road for another three-game PBC series on Saturday, Mar. 9 and Sunday, Mar. 10. The Saints will travel to Augusta, Ga. to take on the Jaguars of Augusta State University (6-10, 2-4 PBC) in a Saturday doubleheader and single game on Sunday.