April 17, 2011
ATHENS, Ga.--Fourth-ranked Florida hit three home runs, including a grand slam by Preston Tucker in the eighth, and defeated 28th-ranked Georgia 14-7 Sunday in front of 3,004 at Foley Field.
The series loss to Florida snapped Georgia's SEC-series winning streak at three, with their last series loss coming at the hands of #3 South Carolina in Columbia on the weekend of March 18-20.
"We were in a position to win today and I don't think I would have asked for much more than to be able to have Blake Dieterich come in with the lead," said Georgia head coach David Perno. " I don't think that I could ask for much more than that coming from a team standpoint, especially coming back from four runs in the first and getting the ball to our late-inning guys. We pitched so well yesterday and we just need to get our guys back to where they need to be. I've got a lot of confidence in (Craig) Gullickson, and we just need to get him back to being as sharp as he was in the fall."
Gullickson started and immediately got into trouble in the top of the first inning as the Gators batted around in the inning, scoring three runs before Georgia recorded an out. Florida centerfielder Bryson Smith lined a single to right, which was followed by successive walks to shortstop Nolan Fontana and catcher Mike Zunino (3-for-4, three runs). Smith scored from third on Gullickson's second wild pitch of the inning to give Florida a 1-0 lead. A passed ball by catcher Joey Delmonico on ball four to Preston Tucker allowed the second Gator run to score. Third baseman Austin Maddox followed with an RBI-single to center scoring Zunino and extending the lead to 3-0. A sacrifice fly by designated hitter Brian Johnson (3-for-4, home run, three RBI) drove in Tucker before Gullickson retired Josh Adams and Tyler Thompson to end the inning.
Zach Cone (2-for-5, double, triple, two RBI) led off the bottom of the second inning with his first triple of the campaign. Cone's triple was the 10th of his career, which is tied for the fourth most in Georgia history. An infield single by Jonathan Hester scored Cone from third and cut the Gator lead to 4-1.
Gullickson was unable to corral the Gator bats, allowing four runs on five hits over two innings of work. He walked three and hit one batter, free passes that all came in the four-run first inning. Sophomore Chase Hawkins induced a double-play ball off the bat of Adams and struck out Daniel Pigott to end the frame. In his first SEC appearance of the year, Hawkins retired the first seven batters he faced until Florida staged a two-out rally in the fifth. A sharp single off the bat of Maddox brought Johnson to the plate. The Gator designated launched the Hawkins offering over the right-centerfield wall to give Florida a 6-1 lead.
A one-out double by rightfielder Peter Verdin gave the Bulldogs yet another scoring opportunity in the fifth. Verdin, who advanced to third on a Whitson wild pitch, scored on a ground-rule double off the bat of Levi Hyams, trimming the lead to four. A bunt single by Curt Powell moved Hyams to third and once again brought up the heart of the Bulldog order with runners on. Cone ripped a two-out RBI-double down the left field line, scoring Hyams and cutting the lead to 6-3. Brett DeLoach made a valiant effort to tie the game but Bryson Smith reeled in a deep fly ball on the left-center warning track to end the Bulldog rally.
Hawkins turned the ball over to right-hander Earl Daniels in the sixth. Hawkins provided the Bulldogs with three quality innings, allowing three hits with the only two runs coming on the homer by Johnson. Daniels recorded a quick 1-2-3 inning, with a leadoff single erased by a 6-3 double play.
Florida starter Karston Whitson gave way to lefty Alex Panteliodis in the bottom of the sixth. Whitson allowed three runs on six hits over five innings of work, while walking two and striking out five. The Bulldogs welcomed the change, as three straight hits including a double by Hester and an RBI-single by pinch hitter Kevin Ruiz (3-for-3, double, RBI) moved Georgia within two of the lead. Verdin (2-for-4, two runs) legged out a bunt single to load the bases for the Dogs and Florida was forced to make a pitching change. Panteliodis was lifted after allowing four runs on four hits without recording an out. Gator lefty Steven Rodriguez was called upon to face the top of the Bulldog order. Rodriguez struck out Hyams on three consecutive pitches to record the first out of the inning but missed on four straight to Powell whose RBI-walk brought the score to 6-5. Kyle Farmer then slapped the first pitch the saw up the middle for an RBI-infield single, scoring Ruiz and evening the score at 6-6.
Florida (28-9, 11-4 SEC) called upon their third pitcher of the inning, Greg Larson, to face Zach Cone with the bases still loaded. Cone hit a sharp liner to the shortstop Fontana who mishandled the ball but had the ball bounce directly to the second baseman for an RBI-fielder's choice, giving Georgia a 7-6 lead.
Georgia (19-18, 9-6 SEC) handed the ball to Blake Dieterich after Daniels allowed a leadoff single in the top of the seventh. Preston Tucker smashed a two-run homer on the Dieterich's first pitch to regain the lead at 8-7. The sophomore lefty recovered, striking out Johnson and inducing a double-play ball to escape the inning.
Dieterich (1-2) allowed a leadoff single before being pulled in favor of junior righty Tyler Maloof. Maloof walked Fontana and hit Zunino with a pitch to load the bases with two outs before Tucker (2-for-5, two home runs, six RBI) scorched a line-drive grand slam to right, his second home run of the game, to extend the Gator lead to 12-7. The Gators tacked on one more run in the inning on an RBI-single by Josh Adams off of reliever Patrick Boling.
Maloof, who leads the nation with 12 saves, has had trouble in his three non-save appearances this year. In those outings, he has allowed 12 runs on seven hits while walking five, striking out five and hitting five batters in three innings of work.
Florida added their 14th run after a sacrifice fly by Fontana scored Tyler Thompson to lead off the top of the ninth. Georgia reliever Cecil Tanner walked Thompson to start the inning and the Gator leftfielder promptly stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. The run was the first earned run allowed by Tanner this season.
Greg Larson (1-1) pitched the final 3.2 innings for the Gators, allowing no runs on five hits on his way to his first win of the season.
"The bright spot was our offense and our defense this weekend," stated Perno. "I think we did a great job this weekend offensively and the way we fought back and hung in there was great. We wanted to put our guys in a place to win and we got the ball to our late game guys and unfortunately, they couldn't close it out for us today. Dieterich and Maloof have to stay sharp and we need them to get back to where they were before."
Georgia hit .327 in the series and fielded a perfect 1.000 in 122 total chances. Florida's SEC-leading offense hit .368 with four home runs against the Bulldogs.
Georgia will return to action against 23rd-ranked Clemson on Wednesday at Foley Field. The Bulldogs will look to even the season series with the Tigers, who won the first meeting 11-6 in Clemson, S.C. First pitch in scheduled for 7:06 p.m. and the game will be televised by CSS. Live stats will be available on georgiadogs.com.