ATHENS -- Kennesaw State's Andy Almonte scored the game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning on a two-out fielder's choice to edge Georgia 2-1 Wednesday at Foley Field in the Bulldogs' home opener.
Kyle Farmer went 1-4 with an RBI and a double, while Hunter Cole, Sean McLaughlin and J.T. Phillips each recorded a hit apiece for the Bulldogs. Cole also added a double and a walk on the evening.
With the loss, Georgia drops to 1-3 while Kennesaw State improves to 4-0. Justin McCalvin earned the win for the Owls after allowing just one hit, no runs and three strikeouts through two innings of work. Sophomore Jared Walsh, a Peachtree Ridge grad, took the loss for the Bulldogs, giving up one hit and one run over 1 innings.
"We need to get some confidence, and we'll be in good shape because we're still working the kinks out," said Georgia coach David Perno. "That's why you play 56 games, and I'm confident it will come together. I give credit to Kennesaw State, they threw strikes and played well. We just have to create some more scoring opportunities. I thought our pitchers did a good job, and I liked how David Gonzalez did in his debut."
Gonzalez made the start for Georgia, the first of his career, and he opened the game by recording a strikeout against Jacob Bruce. Neither team scored through the first two innings, and it wasn't until the third inning that the Bulldogs finally placed a runner on base. Justin Bryan reached first in the bottom of the third with one out on an error by the third baseman, but the Bulldogs were unable to push any runs across.
In the fourth inning, Gonzalez issued a lead-off walk to Bo Way, and the next batter grounded out to third, allowing Way to advance to second. Max Pentecost (Winder-Barrow) then singled to center to score Way, giving Kennesaw State a 1-0 lead. Senior Blake Dieterich entered the game to relieve Gonzalez and forced the next two batters to pop out and strike out, respectively.
Cole recorded Georgia's first hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth, ripping a two-out double down the left field line, but a fly out to left ended the inning without any runs scored.
Neither team scored in the fifth inning, but Georgia third baseman Curt Powell had a strong defensive effort in the top half of the inning, diving across his body to stop a hard-hit ball down the line that prevented a base hit. Grayson grad Bryan Benzor entered the game to pitch for the Dogs in the sixth inning, and he surrendered a leadoff single up the middle to Way before Georgia quickly turned a 6-4-3 double play on the ensuing batter to get out of the jam.
The Bulldogs finally pushed a run across in the bottom of the sixth inning that began when Phillips recorded a lead-off single up the middle. A sacrifice bunt down the first-base line by Nelson Ward moved Phillips to second with just one out. Two batters later, Farmer dropped the ball in just fair down the left-field line for a two-out double that scored Phillips and tied the game at one run apiece.
The Bulldogs retired the Owls in order to start the seventh before threatening to score in the bottom of the inning. McLaughlin sent a two-out single to center and then advanced to second on a wild throw by the pitcher over to first, but a strikeout ended the inning for the Bulldogs.
Georgia brought in reliever Jarrett Brown in the eighth inning, and Brown hit the first batter of the inning, Kal Simmons, to place a runner on first. A sac bunt back by the next batter allowed Simmons to move into scoring position at second with just one out. The Bulldogs committed an error two batters later that placed runners on the corners with two outs, but Walsh entered the game at this point and came up with a huge strikeout against Pentecost to end the inning
Georgia was unable to score in the bottom of the inning, and in the top of the ninth, Walsh issued a lead-off walk to Almonte to put the go-ahead run on base. A sacrifice bunt down the first-base line by Collins Hill grad Chris McGowan allowed Almonte to move down to second, and an infield base hit by Kody Belcher put runners on the corners with just one out. Walsh then struck out Anthony Duran, but a fielder's choice on the next play allowed Almonte to score the go-ahead run for the Owls.
Cole drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the ninth as Georgia attempted to rally for the tying run, but two back-to-back fly outs to center field sealed the 2-1 victory for Kennesaw State.