May 5, 2012

Farmer comes through



In the bottom half of the ninth with the winning run at second, Georgia's Kyle Farmer jumped on a pitch from Auburn' s Derek Varnadore and lined it just about as hard as he possibly could - right to the first baseman.

Varnadore wasn't quite so fortunate the next time he faced the Bulldog shortstop in the 11th after Farmer laced a ball to right-center, scoring Curt Powell from second to give Georgia a thrilling 6-5 win before a Foley Field crowd of 2,438.

"I was just trying to see the ball and hit the ball hard," said Farmer, who was mobbed by his teammate as Powell crossed the plate. "I got plugged in pretty good, got ready to hit and got enough of the barrel on it to whip it in there."

For Georgia (27-20, 11-12), it was a huge win by any definition.

Not only did the outcome ensure the Bulldogs winning the series from the Tigers (25-21, 10-13), but it puts Georgia four wins away from skipper David Perno's "magic number" of 15 conference victories, which he believes will guarantee his team a spot in the 64-team field.

Granted, there's still some work to do.

There's Sunday's 2 p.m. finale against the Tigers, before Georgia hosts two-time defending national champion South Carolina next weekend, before closing out the regular season at Alabama.

"Right now all we want to do is make sure we go out and play to our identity (Sunday)," Perno said. "If Luke (Crumley) can go out and keep the momentum of giving us a quality start, maybe we'll break through offensively and get some more runs up."

Saturday, the Bulldogs got just enough.

After Auburn reached reliever Bryan Benzor (5-4) for a run in the top of the 11th, Jonathan Hester walked to start what turned out to be the game-winning rally.

Following a groundout by pinch-hitter Nelson Ward moving Hester to second, Conor Welton singled to left to put runners on first and third.

That brought up Powell, who bounced a slow chopper to second. Tiger Creede Simpson quickly flipped to the bag to get Welton at second, but shortstop Dan Glevenyak's throw back got past first, allowing Hester to score the tying run and Powell to chug into second putting Farmer in the position to play hero.

"I was so focused on beating it out I wasn't hearing anything," said Powell. "But I turned around, saw the ball and Coach was just pointing to second. I just took off."

Oddly enough, Auburn decided to pitch to Farmer instead of walking the Bulldog junior to face freshman Hunter Cole, not only to set up a force, but go after a batter (Cole) who was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in the game.

Farmer, though, wasn't complaining.

"I don't know about that but I was happy they did," said Farmer, who led Georgia's 11-hit attack by going 3-for-6 with two RBI. "I'm just glad I was able to come through for the team."

The Bulldogs could have used a few more hits early on.

A solo home run by Justin Bryant put Auburn up 1-0 in the second only to have the Bulldogs answer back in the second to tie the game.

But if you asked Perno, it should have been more as despite loading the bases with nobody out, Georgia could only scratch out one run on a one-out fielding error by Tiger third baseman Zach Alvord.

The bases remained loaded after the boot, but Tiger starter Daniel Koger stopped the Bulldogs right there, getting Powell on a first-pitch pop-up before Farmer lined out to end the inning.

Auburn drew ahead in the fourth.

Following a leadoff single by Simpson, the Tiger second baseman stole second and went to third on a throwing error and scored on a groundout by Garrett Cooper to tie the game a second time.
However, it didn't stay that was for long.

For the second straight inning, Auburn's leadoff hitter - Jay Gonzalez - led off with a single, stole second and scored on a single by nine-hole hitter Bobby Andrews.
A solo homer by Simpson off Bulldog starter Michael Palazone pushed the lead to 4-2 in the sixth before Georgia came back in the seventh to tie for the third time on a pair of doubles by Farmer and Brett DeLoach.

Credit catcher Joey Delmonico for keeping the score right there in the eighth.

With runners on first and third, Blake Dieterich, Georgia's fourth pitcher on the afternoon, bounced a pitch off of home plate.

The ball only landed 10 feet away, but Simpson tried to score before Delmonico dove head-first to make the tag for the third out.

After a scoreless top of the ninth, Georgia had a chance to end the game in the inning's bottom half.

Following a leadoff walk to Welton, Powell sacrificed him to second. But he stayed right there after Farmer lined out to first, followed by Cole who struck out on three pitches.

Two innings later, however, nobody was worried about any missed opportunities.

"I thought we played well, I really did," Perno said. "We let that second inning get away from us, but we stayed the course and we made some good plays defensively and we pitched well. I thought Michael was solid. He kept us in the game, minimized their damage and our bullpen was really good."

NOTES: Palazzone went six innings for Georgia, allowing four runs on seven hits with one walk and five strikeouts. … First pitch Sunday is set for 2 p.m.