March 3, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- Kevin Ruiz's one-out, bases-loaded single into right gave eighth-ranked Georgia a 3-2 walk-off win over Western Illinois Saturday at Foley Field.
Georgia (10-1) got on the board in the bottom of the third inning when leadoff man Nelson Ward scored from second on a Kyle Farmer single. Ward walked with two outs to get on base and advanced to second when Conor Welton (3-4) smacked a gapper into right field.
Western Illinois (3-6) answered in the next frame, as the Fighting Leathernecks came up with a two-out surge of their own. After retiring the first two batters, Georgia pitcher Michael Palazzone gave up three consecutive hits that resulted in two runs. Vince Howard put a blooper over shortstop Farmer's head to score Tom Lilja and Ryan Cowhey. Howard stole both second and third base before Palazzone forced a grounder to hold the tally at 2-1. Palazzone left the game after four innings, allowing five hits, two runs and three strikeouts. He does not have a decision in three starts this season.
Meanwhile, Georgia's bullpen finished out the game strongly with five shutout innings. Bulldog relievers allowed just three hits and struck out five batters, with junior Blake Dieterich picking up his second win of the season. He pitched the final two innings and allowed just two hits.
"When your bullpen throws five scoreless innings at home, you need to win that game, and we were able to get it done today," said Georgia coach David Perno. "We need to score more or we're going to be in a lot of these close games. Western's two starters are seniors, and they did a good job against us. Kevin (Ruiz) got a big hit today. He understood the situation and came through."
The Bulldogs tied it up at 2-2 in the fifth, when Peter Verdin scored on a crucial wild pitch from Western Illinois starter Dustin Hunter. Verdin had reached on a walk, advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt and reached third thanks to a bunt from Welton. Hunter provided seven strong innings, scattering four hits and two runs, only one earned with four walks and eight strikeouts.
After two more scoreless innings, Western Illinois threatened to regain the lead in the top of the ninth. An error by Hyams on a pop-up put two runners on with just one out, but Dietrich was able to retire the side and keep the game tied.
With one out, Colby May registered the Bulldogs' first base hit in four innings. He was followed by Brett DeLoach, who made it to second when right fielder Ryan Cowhey dropped a fly ball. Brandon Stephens then got aboard on an intentional walk before Ruiz sealed the victory for Georgia with the base hit off Dan Russell. The WIU right-hander dropped to 1-1 on the year.
"I went up there knowing he was going to have give me a good pitch with the bases loaded so I was looking early in the count," said Ruiz. "I liked the first pitch I saw and hit it in to centerfield."
It was the third Saturday this season that the Bulldogs registered a one-run victory including their second walk-off of the year.
Georgia will conclude their series with Western Illinois Sunday at 1 p.m.