March 16, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- Despite having the game delayed in the fifth inning with an hour-long lightning delay, the 18th ranked Georgia Bulldogs were able to stay focused and shut out Tennessee 4-0 Friday at Foley Field.
Georgia (14-5, 1-0 SEC) registered its fourth shutout of the season and first in an SEC game since blanking Arkansas last year. The Bulldogs grabbed the lead in the second inning. With one out, Conor Welton plated Jonathan Hester with a line drive to center. Hester had reached base on a walk and advanced to second on a Curt Powell single. A botched pickoff attempt advanced Powell to third and Welton to second, and both scored when freshman Nelson Ward knocked a two-out blooper into shallow center. That signaled the end of a short night for Tennessee starting pitcher Nick Blount (2-2), who picked up the loss. T.J. Thornton stepped in and struck out Levi Hyams to keep the tally at 3-0.
In the third, the Bulldogs picked up some insurance on a solo homer from Kyle Farmer (3-4, RBI). The junior's blast cleared the trees behind the left field fence and extended Georgia's lead to 4-0.
Thunder and lightning struck after the end of the fourth, sending the game into what would be a full hour's delay. When play resumed, Bryan Benzor took the mound to replace Alex Wood, who finished with four hits, three strikeouts and no walks in four scoreless innings pitched. The Georgia bullpen handled the rest, with Benzor, Earl Daniels, Luke Crumley and Blake Dieterich combining for five hits and just one walk in keeping the Volunteers from crossing the plate.
After failing to send a runner past first base for five innings, Tennessee (10-6, 0-1 SEC) finally got a scoring opportunity in the sixth. Chris Pierce led off with a single and advanced to second and third on two consecutive groundouts, but Benzor halted the threat with a strikeout to retire the side.
The Volunteers came close again in their next at-bat. With no outs, Chris Fritts laced a double down the third base line. Davis Morgan followed with a base hit to right, putting runners at the corners. Benzor struck out Jake Rowland before yielding the mound to Daniels, who preserved the shutout by retiring the next two batters and picked up the win to even his record at 1-1. Tennessee's Robbie Kidd tossed four scoreless innings with five strikeouts.
"I don't mind us giving up some hits because we're going to pitch to contact," said Georgia coach David Perno. "Unfortunately, the delay forced us to the bullpen early because Alex (Wood) was pitching great. The bullpen did a nice job in going five scoreless because Tennessee had some chances. I was pleased with how we got some early runs. Nelson Ward, Conor Welton and Kyle Farmer got a couple more clutch hits for us again."
Georgia will continue its series with Tennessee at 3 p.m. Saturday.