ATHENS — Lipscomb marked its first appearance in the NCAA tournament by wearing white cleats.
Their bold fashion statement notwithstanding, the Bisons hardly looked like a newcomer.
Ryan Wilkins hit one of three homers for Lipscomb, which made its first tournament game one to remember: a 10-7 stunner over host Georgia in the opener of the Athens regional Friday.
"Wow," Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand said.
The Bisons, who finished third in the lowly Atlantic Sun during the regular season, only got into the NCAAs by beating Gardner-Webb in a 15-inning thriller to win their conference tournament. But they sure looked like the belonged, beating up on the champions of the powerful Southeastern Conference.
"When you come in to play a team as good as Georgia, you just hope to be in the game at the end," Forehand said.
Lipscomb, a private school in Nashville, Tenn., with only about 2,700 students, actually broke the game open with a four-run fifth. Wilkins, who came into the game batting .213, capped the outburst with a two-run homer.
Caleb Joseph and Blake Bratcher also went deep for the Bisons (33-28).
Georgia (35-22-1) lost for the fifth time in six games and now faces an elimination game Saturday against either Georgia Tech or Louisville. Those teams played in the second game Friday.
"We've been scuffling for a couple of weeks," coach David Perno said. "It's nothing that's not doable, but it's going to be an uphill battle."
The Bulldogs tried to rally in the eighth. They closed to 9-7 on star Gordon Beckham's run-scoring single and had the potential tying runs on base, but side-arming reliever Kyle Tognazzini ended the threat by getting cleanup hitter Rich Poythress on an inning-ending double play.
Poythress hit a one-hopper back to the mound, Tognazzini fielded it and made a perfect throw to second, and Jorge Gutierrez relayed it on to first. Tognazzini let out a scream, pumped his right fist and chest-bumped his teammates on his way to the dugout.
"Togs has been doing it for us all year," Forehand said. "They had a great opportunity to score there. That was a big play, an emotional play on our side."
The Bisons added a run in the top of the ninth, and Tognazzini set the Bulldogs down 1-2-3 for his fourth save. A small contingent of Lipscomb fans cheered wildly after the final out, while stunned Georgia fans filed quietly out of Foley Field.
"This means a ton," said Lipscomb starter Rex Brothers, who endured after Georgia struck for four unearned runs in the first. "We're not taking baby steps anymore. We just want to ride it out. Where will it turn up? Hopefully Omaha."
Lipscomb, a one-time NAIA power, took the field wearing white cleats that looked as though they were borrowed from the "Swingin' A's" of the 1970s. Forehand wasn't pleased with the look, but he promised his players they could wear the gaudy footwear if the Bisons made it to the NCAAs.
"They've been wanting to wear them all year long, but I knew saying, 'No, I don't like 'em," the coach said.
What does Forehand think now?
"I guess we can keep on wearing 'em," he said with a smile.
Joseph homered off Stephen Dodson (5-4) in the first, but Georgia appeared to seize control with those four unearned runs in the bottom half.
A hard grounder down the third base line bounced off the heel of Branden Cadavid's glove, letting in the
Bulldogs' first run. Bryce Massanari, Matt Cerione and Joey Lewis followed with three straight two-out hits against Brothers (4-5).
Brothers settled down to last 5 1-3 innings. He gave up nine hits and six runs, but only two were earned.
"My job as the starting pitcher is just to keep us in the game," he said. "I thought I did a pretty job after the first inning."
Bratcher's two-run homer in the third tied the game at 4, and Lipscomb poured it on in the fifth. Bratcher got it going with an RBI single, Justin Sanders drove home another run with a groundout and Wilkins finished off Dodson with his two-run shot over the left-field wall.
"Coach stressed to us to attack every inning," Bratcher said.
Georgia got it to 9-6 on Ryan Peisel's two-run, opposite-field homer in the sixth, the ball barely clearing the wall just inside the right-field foul pole.
But the Bulldogs never caught Lipscomb.
Maybe it was the shoes.
"I really like 'em," Bratcher said. "It's a little Oakland A's action."