Bryan Benzor struck out a career-high five in 2.1 innings for the win Friday.
March 23, 2012
NASHVILLE, TENN.-----Curt Powell’s solo home run coupled with stellar Bulldog pitching led No. 18 Georgia to a 1-0 road win over Vanderbilt Friday at Hawkins Field.
Georgia (17-6, 3-1 SEC) collected its fifth shutout of the season including the second straight to open an SEC series after blanking Tennessee last Friday 4-0. The last time Georgia won an SEC game 1-0 on the road was the 2004 SEC Tournament in Birmingham against then third-ranked LSU. The last time the Bulldogs did it on an SEC opponent’s home field, Georgia coach David Perno was in the dugout as a player – 1991 at Ole Miss. Georgia’s latest shutout dropped the Commodores to 7-15 overall and 0-4 in the league.
After three scoreless innings that featured three pickoffs Friday, two by Bulldog left-hander Alex Wood and one by Vanderbilt left-hander Kevin Ziomek, Georgia got on the scoreboard first.
Georgia junior third baseman Curt Powell made it 1-0 with a solo home run off Ziomek to start the fourth. It was his first of the year and second of his career. Powell entered the game as the team’s leading hitter with a .377 batting average. Then to start the bottom of the fourth, Powell made a diving stop to take away extra bases from Vanderbilt’s top hitter in Mike Yastrzemski. That proved to be a key play in the frame as the next two Commodores reached on base hits and then Vince Conde got ahead in the count 3-0. Wood battled back and forced Conde to hit into a fielder’s choice on a 3-2 count. With runners at the corners, centerfielder Connor Harrell got the count to 3-2 before Wood struck him out to squash the threat.
With one on and one out in the bottom of the fifth, the game was halted due to rain and lightning. The delay lasted 61 minutes and for the second week in a row, Wood’s start was cut short due to Mother Nature after pitching scoreless baseball. Senior left-hander Chase Hawkins took over on the mound and senior Colby May came in at first for Jonathan Hester. Hawkins got speedy leadoff hitter Tony Kemp to bounce in to an inning-ending double play.
Last Friday against Tennessee, Wood tossed four scoreless innings before a one-hour delay. Against the Commodores, he went 4.1 shutout innings, allowing four hits and one walk with three strikeouts. Ziomek started the sixth and hit Peter Verdin. A wild pitch moved him to second and a passed ball on Spencer Navin got him to third. Ziomek retired Levi Hyams on a lineout and then Vanderbilt went to its bullpen for right-hander Drew VerHagen. Powell put down a bunt attempt and reached on a fielder’s choice as Verdin had to hold at third. Then, Vanderbilt turned a nifty double play on Kyle Farmer to keep it 1-0. Vanderbilt threatened again in the bottom of the inning, but the Bulldog bullpen was up to the challenge as the Commodores stranded a runner at third. Hawkins got the first two outs, and then junior Bryan Benzor came in and struck out Spencer Navin.
In the bottom of the eighth, Vanderbilt got a leadoff single from Vince Conde. Benzor struck out Harrell, and on the play, Conde was thrown out trying to steal second on a nice diving grab by Farmer covering the bag.
Georgia had one hit through eight innings before catcher Brandon Stephens and freshman Hunter Cole notched singles in the ninth. However, the Bulldogs could not push another run across. In the bottom of the frame, Vanderbilt rolled the dice again on the base paths and Georgia responded.
Junior closer Blake Dieterich came on for Benzor who pitched 2.1 scoreless innings with a career-high five strikeouts. He retired the first Commodore and then Gregor and Navin recorded singles. Conde was a pitch away from drawing a walk to load the bases when Dieterich struck him out. Then on a 1-1 pitch, Harrell swung and missed as the Commodores attempted a double steal. Stephens fired to Farmer at second and threw out Navin to end the contest.
Benzor picked up the win to move his record to 3-0 while Dieterich got his fourth save. Ziomek dropped to 2-3. Bulldog pitchers collected 10 strikeouts and scattered seven hits with two walks.
“Well, it was our turn to win a game on one swing of the bat because we’ve lost a couple this year like that,” said Georgia coach David Perno. “Over the long haul of a season, I tend to think these things even out. We hung in there tonight and one run was enough. Vanderbilt played well and pitched great. We had one hit through eight innings and had our share of chances. Our pitching and defense were outstanding and Brandon Stephens made some nice plays for us late in the ball game.”
Game two of the series is slated for Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.