ATHENS — Georgia baseball outlasted Clemson 3-2 in 20 innings, the longest baseball game in the history of both schools ending at 1:35 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Connor Tate drove a one-out chopper through the left side of the infield with the bases loaded, bringing Tucker Maxwell across the plate with the winning run as the Bulldogs’ dugout stormed the field.
A rowdy study section cheered wildly, breaking into chants of “U-G-A, U-G-A!” as the Georgia celebration ended up in center field, 6 hours, 33 minutes after the action started Tuesday night.
“We found a way to win and it was a lot of fun,” Bulldogs coach Scott Stricklin said. “The guys were slap happy by about the 15th inning.
“Guys were wearing motorcycle helmets and playing ping pong in the dugout, I’ve never seen that before.”
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) April 17, 2019
A season-high crowd of 3,419 showed up at Foley Field to see if the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (30-8) could finish off a season sweep of No. 24-ranked Clemson (25-12). UGA beat the Tigers 5-3 in South Carolina on April 2 and have won four straight in a rivalry that dates back to 1900.
Many of the original spectators left after the game went to extra innings, normal bed times fast approaching as the temperature dropped 20 degrees from the game’s start (74 degrees) to finish.
Some time after midnight, however, Georgia students started to show up and fill seats behind home plate at the SEC Network-televised affair.
The homefield advantage was palpable, the rowdy crowd reminding Clemson hitters of their unflattering statistics in the game as they came to the plate.
“When the crowd came here, I don’t know where they came from, but that picked us up and gave us all the spirit to finish the game out,” said Tate, a redshirt freshman from neighboring Oconee County.
“Clearly we’re a really good team, and that shows we find a way to win, no matter how many innings, how many pitches.”
A rowdy UGA student section showed up after midnight / Kristin M. Bradshaw photo
Georgia pitcher Darryn Pasqua got his first decision of the season in what was his sixth appearance. Pasqua, a redshirt freshman from Rocky Face, Ga., allowed just two hits in his five innings of work.
Pasqua fanned seven, including a clutch strikeout to strand Clemson runners on second and third in the top half of the 20th inning.
Pasqua couldn’t remember the strikeout pitch, but the win is surely won he’ll never forget.
“The guys were having a great time in the dugout, that keeps the energy up and keeps us going,” Pasqua said, asked how he managed to stay focused. “It reminds us we’re still there to have fun even if it’s 1 o’clock in the morning.”
Georgia opened the pivotal frame when Tucker Maxwell drew a leadoff walk from Clemson’s Luke Sommerfield (0-1) to open the bottom of the 20th inning and advanced to second on an errant pickoff attempt.
Riley King followed with an infield single, moving Maxwell to third base, and then King stole second. An intentional walk to L.J. Talley loaded the bases for Tate’s heroics.
Opening nine innings
Clemson scored first in the game with two runs in the sixth inning. Sam Hall singled to center field off starter Tim Elliott, advanced to second on a groundout and scored on Kyle Wilkie’s single to make it 1-0.
It was 2-0 after Bryar Hawkins tripled off the center field wall to drive in Wilkie. After an intentional walk, Stricklin turned to Justin Glover to get out of the inning, which junior lefty did by inducing a groundout.
The Bulldogs tied the game in the bottom of the seventh in spectacular fashion when Austin Biggar drew a one-out walk, and then Cam Shepherd doubled into the corner and scored on an error by the left fielder.
Shepherd’s hot shot skipped by Clemson third baseman Grayson Byrd and caromed into the left field corner.
Tigers’ left fielder Elijah Henderson raced over and fielded the baseball, but the ball slipped out of his hand, and Shepherd beat a resulting throw to the plate with a headfirst slide to tie the game 2-2.
The Tigers threatened in the eighth when Georgia’s Zac Kristofak pitched himself into and out of a bases loaded jam.
Aaron Schunk moved from third to the pitcher’s mound and tied his career high for innings pitched. Schunk threw scoreless frames in the ninth, 10th inning and 11th innings in his 14th appearance of the season.
Georgia baseball returns to action at 6 p.m. on Thursday against No. 21-ranked Missouri at Foley Field.
The Bulldogs will enter the weekend set tied atop the SEC with Mississippi State with a 10-5 league mark, one ahead of Vanderbilt in the SEC East.
Georgia baseball notes
• Georgia pitchers set a record for the most strikeouts recorded in a game (25). Clemson pitchers also set a team record for strikeouts (25).
• Logan Moody pitched a career-long four innings, holding Clemson scoreless from the 12th through the 15th innings and recording a career-high eight strikeouts.
• Previously, the longest Clemson game was 19 innings in 1988 NCAA Tournament, a 3-2 win over Fordham at Beehive Field in New Britain, Ct.
• Previously, Georgia’s longest game was a 6-2 loss to Gardner-Webb in 2007, in 17 innings.
Georgia baseball Connor Tate
Georgia baseball coach Scott Stricklin
Georgia pitcher Darryn Pasqua
— Georgia Baseball (@BaseballUGA) April 16, 2019