April 12, 2012

Big night for UGA duo

If Georgia is to make a run deep into post-season play, shortstop Kyle Farmer and pitcher Michael Palazzone are going to need to play prominent roles.

Thursday night, that's just happened as Farmer's bases-clearing double in the eighth backed a complete game effort by Palazzone, who blanked 18th-ranked Ole Miss 8-4 before a Foley Field crowd of 2,044.

"It was a victory before the game ended, just from Michael's standpoint," Bulldog skipper David Perno said. "That guy needs to be doing that sort of stuff for us to get where we need to get."

There wasn't much not to like from Perno's perspective.

The complete game was the fifth of Palazzone's career, an effort which saw the senior right-hander scatter nine hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.

"It's been a while since I've gotten a win, so this was big to go out there, feel good and comfortable, and get that W tonight," said Palazzone (1-4), who came in with an ERA of 5.68. "The balls were a little up to start the game, but I gradually worked it down. I just tried to keep them off balance and it really worked out."

For Farmer, his game-winning hit was special on a couple of fronts, although some in his family might be a little upset with his Thursday night success.

Farmer's entire family, his mother and father, along with his grandparents, are all graduates of Ole Miss. In fact, his father Bryan pitched collegiately for the Rebels (1982-86) and holds the school record for most career starts with 61.

"My grandma might be mad at me tonight, but I'm just happy the team got this first one on a Thursday," Farmer said. "It started (Wednesday) with that big inning we had against Clemson (an 8-6 Bulldog win). We finally found out what it felt like to put a crooked number up on the board and it rolled over today. Hopefully, it will roll over tomorrow."

Farmer led Georgia's 14-hit attack by going 3-for-5 with four RBI, the fifth time he's accomplished that feat in his career.

He was followed by Peter Verdin and Hunter Cole with two hits each.

"It was a great win for the game and I was glad to see Pally back," Farmer said. "He looked the best he has all season and I was happy for him."

Palazzone was perfect through the first two before the Rebels struck for a pair in the third.

A two-strike single by Tanner Mathis plated the first run, followed one batter later by a single Alex Yarborough to drive in Auston Bousfield.

On the play, Mathis tried to score when Verdin bobbled the ball in right, but recovered in time to relay to second baseman Levi Hyams who gunned out Mathis for the third out.

Georgia (21-13, 6-7) tied the game at 2 in the fifth against Ole Miss ace Bobby Wahl, stringing together four straight hits, including RBI singles by Hyams and Farmer. But the score didn't stay that way for long.

In the sixth, the Rebels (23-11, 6-7) had a runner on first Matt Snyder popped a Palazzone pitch into short left field.

Farmer and left fielder Conor Welton both converged, but the ball was dropped by Welton, scoring Yarborough. Snyder, who went to third on the play when Welton inexplicably sailed his throw past second base, scored on batter later on a single by Will Allen for a 4-2 Rebel lead.

After Mathis was thrown out at the plate in the third, the Rebels returned the favor in the Bulldogs' half of the seventh.

With Farmer at first, Cole ripped a double to right-center field. Bousfield grabbed the ball and quickly fired to Yarborough who wheeled and threw a strike to home, barely beating nipping the Bulldog shortstop as he tried to slide across the plate.

But Georgia wasn't done yet.

In the bottom of the eighth, a single by Brett DeLoach and a walk to Colby May courtesy of reliever Aaron Greenwood put runners at first and second.

Twice, Verdin attempted to lay down a bunt, but failed twice, only to have Greenwood uncork a wild pitch to move the runners up a base, a pitch that also brought Bret Huber into face the Bulldog right fielder with a 1-2 count.

Verdin eventually walked, bringing up Welton who drove in DeLoach with an RBI fielder's choice, followed by pinch-hitter Nelson Ward who singled in May to tie the game.

After an infield hit by Curt Powell, Hyams struck out to bring up Farmer who jumped on a 2-1 pitch by Huber (1-2) and drove it into the gap in right-center to make the score 7-4. Cole followed with an RBI single to account for the final 8-4 margin.

"I told our guys, even when we were losing 4-2 and 2-0, that even though we were losing on the board, our starter's pitch count was down and we're about to run their ace out of there," Perno said. "I just felt we in good position and doing all the right things. Aside from the errors, everything else was clean, the bats were good early, didn't do a lot of good things early but later in the game we did."

Georgia and Ole Miss continue their series Friday night at 7 p.m. Alex Wood (4-1, 2.45) will pitch for the Bulldogs.