Augusta, GA - The phrase "Better late than never" couldn't have been more true for the Augusta GreenJackets on Monday night. After being held scoreless on one hit through five innings, the GreenJackets scored seven runs on ten hits in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to pull away to a 7-4 win over the Lakewood BlueClaws in the opener of a three-game set.
Trailing 2-0 with two outs in the sixth, the GreenJackets offense came to life on a Carlos Willoughby infield single - at the time, just the second Augusta hit of the contest. Previously, Lakewood starter Lino Martinez had allowed one hit through the game's first five innings and until the Willoughby single had faced the minimum thanks to a pickoff play. After Jose Flores singled to put runners at the corners, Shawn Payne blistered a liner into left field to put the GreenJackets on the board. Devin Harris followed with a seeing-eye single up the middle to score Flores and tie the game at two.
The GreenJackets grabbed their first lead of the night an inning later. With the bases full and no one out, Elliott Blair was hit by a pitch to force the go-ahead run across the plate. Later in the inning, Flores beat out a double play at first to allow another run to score and push Augusta's lead to 4-2.
Lakewood fought back, tying the game at four in the top of the eighth. After Gabriel Lino singled with one out, Miguel Alvarez tripled to dead center to score Lino and cut Augusta's lead to one. Alvarez would score on Tim Carver's game-tying RBI groundout to tie the game at four.
Augusta responded quickly and decisively in the bottom of the eighth, picking up three runs on five hits to take the lead for good. After back-to-back singles opened the inning, Brett Krill's double play ball brought home the go-ahead run. With two outs, Kelby Tomlinson's RBI single made it a 6-4 ballgame. After Tomlinson took second on an errant pickoff toss, Blair singled him home to give the GreenJackets a three-run lead.
Kyle Vazquez retired the side in order in the ninth, striking out the game's final hitter to seal his sixth save of the season. Steven Neff (4-1) earned the win in relief.
The BlueClaws got on the board in the first inning off a shaky Edwin Escobar, who battled through five innings without his best stuff. Kelly Dugan's RBI groundout put the BlueClaws on the board with a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, Lakewood doubled their lead when Trey Ford led off the inning with a solo homer. Escobar allowed two runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out four.
For the BlueClaws, Yari Sosa (1-2) took the loss after allowing three runs - two earned - in the eighth inning, his only inning of work.
The GreenJackets will look to make it two in a row on Tuesday with Clayton Blackburn (6-3, 2.63) taking the mound against Hoby Milner (4-2, 2.88). First pitch comes at 7:05 p.m. with radio coverage beginning at 6:50 p.m. on ESPN Radio 1340 AM and www.greenjacketsbaseball.com. Single-game tickets for any GreenJackets home game are currently available by calling the GreenJackets front office at 706-922-WINS and online at www.greenjacketsbaseball.com.