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Saturday May 28, 2011Georgia Nips No. 3 Florida, 4-3, To Force Extra SEC Tourney Game

Hoover, Ala.

Fifth-seeded Georgia (31-29) edged third-seeded Florida (43-16), 4-3, in the 2011 SEC Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Regions Park. With the Bulldogs’ third-straight victory that clinches an NCAA Regional berth, the teams will now have another game starting at 5:45 p.m. ET to determine who will face fourth-seeded Vanderbilt (47-9) in tomorrow’s championship game. The second UF-UGA contest will be shown in Gainesville and Ocala on Cox Communications Channel 259 and will be carried on WRUF SportsRadio 850.


The Bulldogs opened the scoring with a pair of two-out runs in the first inning. Junior Levi Hyams led off with a single up the middle and sophomore left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) notched back-to-back strikeouts of freshman Conor Welton and sophomore Kyle Farmer. Junior Zach Cone (2-for-4) delivered his second triple of the season into right center to score Hyams and a throwing error by Johnson on a ball hit by sophomore Brett DeLoach (2-for-3) enabled Cone to score for a 2-0 lead. With junior Jonathan Hester at the plate, Johnson had a wild pitch and was injured on the attempted relay throw. Junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) entered the game and struck out Hester.


Florida answered in the bottom of the frame on a two-out, two-RBI double by junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.). Sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) drew a leadoff walk and went to second on a wild pitch before redshirt sophomore Earl Daniel issued a free pass to junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.). A fly-out to center field by sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) pushed Fontana to third and Tucker moved into scoring position with his fifth stolen base. Thompson roped a 2-2 pitch into left center to even the game and prompt a pitching change. Junior Chase Hawkins replaced Daniels (0.2 IP,1 H, 2 R) and had senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) ground out to end the inning.


The Gators loaded the bases with two down in the second but came away empty-handed. Although sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) started things off with a single down the left-field line, Hawkins had junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) ground into a 5-4-3 double play. Sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) (2-for-3) stroked a single into left field, Fontana was hit by a pitch and senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) earned a free pass to fill the bags. Hawkins jammed Tucker on an infield fly to keep the contest tied.


Georgia regained the lead in the third with two runs on three hits off DeSclafani (5-3) to seize a 4-2 advantage. Welton (2-for-4) and Farmer (1-for-4) had consecutive one-out singles and Cone punched an RBI single into right field to bring across Welton. With runners on the corners, DeLoach followed with a sacrifice fly to straightaway center field to score Cone.


UF narrowed the gap to 4-3 in home part of the fourth on a two-out throwing error by junior third baseman Colby May. Pigott and Dent had consecutive one-out singles off junior Michael Palazzone (10-4) and Fontana lined to shortstop for the second out. The Gators executed a successful double steal for the second day in a row for two runners in scoring position and Palazzone induced a potential inning-ending grounder by Smith. However, a throwing error on the play enabled Pigott to score, Dent to occupy third and Smith to take second base. The right-hander had Tucker ground out to strand the runners.


Sophomore Bryan Benzor took over on the mound for Palazzone (4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER) prior to the Gators’ seventh and caught Fontana looking on strikes. Smith laced a one-out single up the middle and was caught stealing for the second out before Tucker reached on an error by Hester at first base. Benzor had Zunino fly out to end the inning.


After Benzor set down the Gators in order in the eighth on three groundouts, DeLoach opened the ninth with a single and a grounder by Hester advanced junior pinch runner Lance Martin to second base. Freshman Keenan Kish (Germantown, Pa.) replaced DeSclafani, who scattered seven hits and yielded two runs over a career-high 7.2 innings, with four strikeouts and a walk. Kish committed a balk that moved Martin to third but then had May ground out. Maddox made a tremendous leaping grab at the dugout rail on a foul pop-up by freshman Brandon Stephens to keep the Gators down by a run entering the bottom of the ninth.


After redshirt sophomore Tyler Maloof struck out Pigott to open the final frame, redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) had a pinch-hit single down the left-field line. Ramjit stumbled rounding the bag and was replaced by redshirt junior pinch runner Paul Wilson (Lakeland, Fla.) on first base. Maloof secured his 18th save by having Fontana line into a game-ending 6-3 double play. Georgia held a 9-8 advantage in hits and the Gators left seven runners on base in the loss.


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