March 9, 2012

Dawgs' bats stay silent

On most nights, one mistake by pitcher Alex Wood probably wouldn't be something his teammates couldn't overcome.

But considering the fact Georgia's bats continue to be stuck in an early-March swoon, a two-run homer in the fourth by UCLA's Trevor Brown Friday night was all the offense the 16th-ranked Bruins needed to defeat the ninth-ranked Bulldogs 2-0.

"That was a tough one tonight," Wood said. "I don't want to discredit anything they did tonight, but they were guessing the whole night. Again, not to discredit anything they did but that was probably the luckiest home run I ever gave up in my career. But he earned it."

Wood certainly didn't pitch that badly.

The redshirt sophomore allowed six hits in 6 2/3 innings with one walk and five strikeouts before coming out of the game in the seventh inning. Unfortunately for Georgia, Bruins starter Adam Plutko was just a little bit better.

In fact, Plutko was dominant, scattering just five hits with 11 strikeouts, showing the Foley Field crowd of 1,947 why he was a member of the 2011 Pac-10 All-Freshman team.

For a team that continues to scuffle to score runs, seeing Plutko on the mound wasn't the best of news.

The Bulldogs (11-3) have now gone nine straight games scoring five runs or less, something freshman Nelson Ward said is weighing heavily on the team's mind.

"We were chasing a lot of things that we weren't supposed to; our approach wasn't what it should have been," said Ward, who had two of Georgia's five hits. "I think everybody is just pressing. Everybody is just trying to get that one hit to pick everybody up and get everybody going."

Skipper David Perno, however, wasn't buying any excuses.

"They're big boys. We pressed for a month last season, so they've got to grow up," Perno said. "That's an excuse. We're not going to live with that."

However, when it comes to his team's current at approach at the plate, Perno is willing to take the blame."

"We just don't have a good approach right now. Pop-ups, strikeouts - that was 23 of the 27 outs," he said. "I don't know what it is. It's a bad approach and I've got to take the blame. I've been sitting here coaching them all winter, early spring. It's on me. "

Wood and Plutko found themselves locked in a 0-0 tie through three innings, with the Bulldog lefty retiring eight straight until Jeff Gelalich guided a single through the left side bringing up Brown.

Brown wouldn't miss, jumping on a Wood pitch and drilling it into the trees high over the left-field wall for a two-run home run.

Plutko, meanwhile, stayed in total control.

After giving up back-to-back singles to Ward and Conor Welton to open the game, the 2011 Pac-10 freshman of the year settled in.

The righty retired 16 of the next 17 batters, with Welton the only other Bulldog to reach (on an error) before Ward singled to lead off the sixth.

After Bryan Benzor helped Wood get out of a jam in the seventh, the Bulldogs (11-3) wasted a golden opportunity in the inning's bottom half.

After Hunter Cole led off with a double, a one-out bunt by Peter Verdin put runners at first and third with just one out, only to have Plutko escape by striking out Brandon Stephens and getting Curt Powell on a fly ball to the warning track in right-center.

The Bruins (10-3) would blow a chance to ice the contest in the top of the eighth.

Back-to-back singles by Cody Keefer and Gelalich - his career-best fourth hit of the game - led to UCLA putting runners at second and third with only one out. But like Georgia, the Bruins failed to score when Benzor got Brown on a bouncer to third before striking out Cody Regis to end the inning.

NOTES: Georgia and UCLA continue their three-game set Saturday at 2 p.m. Freshman Pete Nagel (0-0, 1.46) gets the start against Bruin sophomore Nick Vander Tuig (2-0, 3.38). The game will be televised live on CSS. … Friday night's attendance was 1,947. … With his seventh-inning single, Verdin has now reached base in all 14 of Georgia's games.