Try as she might, even Mother Nature wasn't able to derail 18th-ranked Georgia in Friday night's SEC-opener against Tennessee as the Bulldogs used five pitchers to blank the visiting Volunteers 4-0.
An hour-long delay for lightening after four innings put the brakes on the contest, but the Bulldogs (14-5, 1-0) were able to maintain their early momentum to post their third straight victory and fourth shutout of the 2012 campaign.
"In situations like that when you've got the momentum going, as long as you stay relaxed in the dugout you'll be fine," said shortstop Kyle Farmer, who went 3-for-4 with a solo home run. "But you've just got to hand it to our pitchers; they all stepped up and got the job done."
Reliever Earl Daniels certainly did.
With runners at first and third and one out in the seventh and the Bulldogs holding onto their 4-0 lead, Daniels came in and replaced Bryan Benzor, who took over for starter Alex Wood following the delay.
Skipper David Perno later said he was willing to give up a run, but Daniels would have none of that, striking out Will Maddox before getting Chris Pierce to ground to short keeping Tennessee (10-7, 0-1) off the board.
"Coach just told me to control the situation and minimize the damage," said Earls, who was credited with the victory. "I just did my best and was able to keep them to no runs."
Tennessee would not threaten again as Luke Crumley tossed a scoreless ninth before Blake Dieterich finished off the Vols with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
"It was good to get Luke Crumley into a tight game and get him some experience; Earl did another great job and Benzor was really good for us," Perno said. "They all did a nice job."
Offensively, Tennessee out-hit the Bulldogs 9-7, but Georgia was able to make theirs count.
After stranding a runner in the first inning, Georgia struck for three in the second off Vol starter Nick Blount (2-2), the first scoring on a one-out single to center by Conor Welton.Later, a dropped pickoff attempt by Maddox at second moved Welton and Curt Powell up to the second and third. Although Pete Verdin followed with a strikeout, freshman Nelson Ward followed with a two-out, two-run single to center to make the score 3-0.
"Two-out hits win ball games," Farmer said. "That really got us going. Hopefully we can keep it up."
"That was our winner right there," Perno said. "Two outs, runners at second and third, those two-out RBI are what wins game - big games. That was really huge for us."
Farmer's homer to lead off the fourth pushed the margin to 4-0 before lighting in the area brought the game to a screeching halt.
The game wound up being delayed for an hour, much to the chagrin of starter Alex Wood who had scattered five hit before Benzor came on after the delay to pitch the fifth.
"Once it got past 30 minutes he wasn't going back out there," Perno said. "It was a tough call, but Alex made it a little easier when he said hey, if you need some relief on Sunday or Tuesday, I'll be ready."
NOTES: Georgia and Tennessee continue their series at 3 p.m. Saturday. Freshman Pete Nagel (0-0, 1.56) gets the start against Vol ace Zack Godley (3-0, 1.44). The series concludes Sunday at 2.