John Harris' hit a 1-2 fastball that was trapped in centerfield to drive in pinch runner Alex Newman from second - and the throw home bounced to the backstop to allow pinch runner Henry Rundio to score the game winner.
Scott Johnson started the rally with a one-out single in the ninth, and Dusty Quattlebaum coaxed a walk to put the winning run on board. Newman and Rundio entered the game to run, but La Salle closer Pat Christensen left them at first and second by coaxing an infield fly for the inning's second out.
Harris then stepped to the plate and delivered his third hit of the game.
La Salle (2-2) was proficient at manufacturing runs to go up early, scoring single runs in the first and second inning. An costly fielding error in the fourth inning kept that frame alive, and Brendan Norton delivered for the Explorers, belting a three-run double off the fence in left to push the lead to 5-0.
Gardner-Webb (4-2) finally pushed a run across in the bottom of the fourth, with Adam McFarland lacing an RBI triple inside the bag at first base. The 'Dogs cut the lead to 5-2 in the fifth on an RBI single by Quattlebaum - and loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh. Harris delivered a clutch two-RBI single to left to make the score 5-4 - but Christensen ended the threat with a strikeout to strand the tying run at second.
Christensen struck out the side in the eighth, and the Explorers loaded the bases in the top of the ninth with one out. Gardner-Webb closer Adam Izokovic kept the Runnin' Bulldogs within a run, however, starting a 1-2-3 double play to end that threat.
Benji Jackson led off the ninth with a screaming line drive to center, but the ball was hit right at the La Salle fielder for the first out. Johnson then stepped into the box, and drove the first pitch he saw through the left side to begin the game-winning surge.
Gardner-Webb collected a season-high 11 hits in the game, with Harris (3-for-5, 3 RBI), Quattlebaum (3-for-4, RBI), McFarland (2-for-4, 3B, RBI) and Hodge (2-for-4, run) accounting for all but one of those safeties.
Izokovic (1-0) picked up the win in relief. Mitch Warner (3.0 IP) and Jeff Howell (1.1 IP, 3K) kept the Explorers off the board for the final five innings. Conner Scarborough scattered six hits and allowed just two earned runs in 4.0 innings of his second start of the season.
Christensen (0-1) took the loss, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits in 2.0 innings pitched. The junior fanned four batters and walked one. Kevin Christy started for La Salle and took a no decision, allowing two runs on six hits with eight strikeouts in 6.0 innings pitched.
La Salle had eight hits in the game, with Norton (2-for-4, 2B, 3 RBI), Dan Klem (2-for-4, 2 runs) and George Smith, Jr. (2-for-3, 2B, RBI, run) leading the way.
Gardner-Webb and La Salle will play the series rubber match at 1:00 pm Sunday.