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Saturday April 21, 2012Georgia Evens Series With No. 1 Baseball, 5-3

Gainesville, Fla.

Behind eight strong innings from senior right-hander Michael Palazzone and a perfect ninth by junior Blake Dieterich, Georgia (24-16/8-9 SEC) evened its weekend series with a 5-3 victory over No. 1 Florida (30-9/10-7 SEC) in front of 4,458 fans at McKethan Stadium on Saturday night. Palazzone (2-5) limited the Gators to six hits and three runs (courtesy of two homers), while Dieterich collected his seventh save. The Bulldogs turned a 2-1 deficit into a lead they would not relinquish with a three-run third inning that was highlighted by a two-out, two-run single by senior Levi Hyams (1-for-4).


“We had first and second with no outs in the second inning and we didn’t move the runner over,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It just happens. You have to score runs when you get those opportunities. I don’t think we got a hit after the fourth inning. You’re not going to win many games like that. Credit Michael Palazzone, he threw great. He’s been in this league now four years and he made pitches all night long. Georgia did exactly what they needed to do to win. It’s as simple as that. He’s [Palazzone] got secondary pitches that he can throw for strikes. He had a great game last week against Ole Miss and he’s a really good pitcher in this league. He’s been that way for a few years now. When you can locate your fastball and be able to throw a breaking ball and a change-up for strikes when you’re behind in the count, you’ve got a chance to win.”


After the start of the game was delayed for exactly one hour due to inclement weather, Georgia jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI double by junior Kyle Farmer (1-for-4, two RBI). Sophomore Conor Welton (2-for-4) had a one-out single through the left side off junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (5-2) and Farmer sent a double to the wall in left center to score his teammate all the way from first base. Farmer was able to reach third on the play due to a fielding error by senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) but was stranded when Johnson had junior Brett DeLoach ground out and freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) made a tremendous defensive stop and relay throw over to first base on a ball hit by Hyams.


The Gators answered in the bottom of the frame with a two-out, two-run homer by senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) off Palazzone to seize a 2-1 lead. The right-hander set down the first two batters before issuing a walk to junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.). Tucker tagged Palazzone’s initial offering into the left-field bleachers for his 10th homer of the season to match Zunino for the team lead. His 51st career round-tripper was his first since April 1 at Ole Miss and was the fifth of his career against the Bulldogs.


Florida put its first two runners aboard in the second when Johnson (2-for-4) raised his hitting streak to eight games with a leadoff single and freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) followed with a base-hit into left field. However, Palazzone had junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) hit into a 6-4-3 double play and struck out junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.).


UGA countered with three runs on four hits in the third on a fielder’s choice by Farmer and a two-out, two-run single by Hyams to take a 4-2 lead . Junior Curt Powell (2-for-4) began the inning with a single into right field and was sacrificed into scoring position on a bunt by senior Peter Verdin. A single by Welton gave the Bulldogs runners on the corners and a fielder’s choice by Farmer forced Welton at second but brought across Powell with the tying run. DeLoach roped a double into right center to push Farmer to third base and Hyams plated both his teammates with a base-knock up the middle.


Pigott trimmed Georgia’s lead to 4-3 with one-out homer to deep left field in the fourth. It was his fourth big fly of the year and his first since April 1 at Ole Miss. After Johnson doubled to right field, Palazzone struck out Shafer and Ramjit legged out an infield single for runners on the corners with two down. That wound up as the Gators’ final hit of the contest, as the righty kept the Bulldogs ahead with an inning-ending K of Dent.  


Verdin singled into center to start the fifth but was erased on a fielder’s choice by Welton. Johnson had Farmer fly out and a grounder by DeLoach force Welton at second base to complete the stanza.


Tucker struck out to begin UF’s sixth but a wild pitch enabled him to reach first base. Tucker moved into scoring position with his third stolen base in four attempts this season and senior first baseman Jonathan Hester made a phenomenal sliding catch in foul territory near UGA’s dugout to retire Pigott. A grounder by Johnson pushed Tucker to third and Palazzone had Shafer line out to second base, where Hyams made a diving stab to preserve his club’s one-run advantage.


Johnson matched his career high with a seven-inning stint in which he scattered seven hits and allowed four runs, with five strikeouts. The left-hander worked seven innings for the fourth time in his career, first since March 11, 2011, versus Rhode Island (7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 5 K, 1 BB). Freshman Johnny Magliozzi (East Milton, Mass.) pitched a clean eighth with three-straight pop-ups.


“He [Brian Johnson] gave us a chance,” Tucker said. “We know what we’re going to get with Brian [Johnson]: he’s going to go out there and compete. He kept it close and he did a great job, especially swinging the bat. Unfortunately, our bats just came up short tonight. We needed to get something started. Things just never got rolling for us tonight.”


After Palazzone had Turgeon ground out to first base, Zunino and Tucker each flew out to deep right field to complete the eighth. Magliozzi (2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 3 K) retired the first two Bulldogs in the ninth before freshman Nelson Ward had a pinch-hit single into center field and Powell delivered an RBI double to give the visitors a 5-3 edge. Georgia held a 9-6 advantage in hits and did not commit any errors.


The teams will wrap up the series tomorrow at 3 p.m. on ESPN2, with junior right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (3-1, 3.56) on the mound for the Gators against UGA freshman right-hander Luke Crumley (1-2, 4.66).


Game Notes

·         Florida will be playing a rubber game on Sunday for the fifth-consecutive SEC series.

·         The Gators fell to 20-4 at McKethan Stadium this season.

·         UF’s pitching staff did not issue any walks for the third contest in a row.

·         Freshman Johnny Magliozzi’s total three strikeouts over two innings, his most K since March 20 versus Samford.


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