May 7, 2011
AUBURN, Ala.,-----Junior Derek Varnadore pitched a complete game five-hit shutout to lead Auburn to a 3-0 win over Georgia Saturday at Plainsman Park.
The Bulldogs (24-23, 13-10 SEC) had a promising start to the second inning with back-to-back singles by Zach Cone and Brett DeLoach. However, Varnadore responded by striking out the next three Bulldogs, all who were called out on strikes. An Athens, Ga., native who transferred to the Tigers from Chattahoochee Valley Community College, Varnadore ran his record to 5-2. He walked three and struck out seven in going the distance for the second time this year.
In the fourth, Auburn (25-21, 11-12 SEC) pushed across two runs off the Bulldogs and right-hander Michael Palazzone. Casey McElroy led off with a base hit and went to third on a double off the left field wall by catcher Tony Caldwell. Third baseman Wes Gilmer followed with an infield single to first that scored McElroy as Caldwell went to third. First baseman Kevin Patterson made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly for his 37th RBI on the year. Palazzone retired the next two Tigers to keep it 2-0.
The Tigers threatened again in the fifth. Justin Hargett reached second base on a strikeout-wild pitch as catcher Joey Delmonico couldn’t find the pitch behind the backstop. Then, Justin Fradejas put down a bunt that Palazzone fielded and looked to third before firing it to first on close play that went in Georgia’s favor. Still, Hargett made it to third and Georgia had to bring the infield in to face Dan Gamache. He lined a shot to third that Curt Powell speared while falling on top of the bag to double-up Hargett and end the frame.
Georgia turned to sophomore left-hander Chase Hawkins in relief of Palazzone to start the bottom of the eighth. Palazzone was the tough-luck loser Saturday, going seven innings and allowing two runs on six hits with one walk and seven strikeouts. He fell to 8-2 this season, and it ended a string of eight wins in his past nine starts. It marked his first loss since Feb. 25 against #16 Baylor along with his first in league action this year, dropping to 6-1.
Auburn added an insurance run in the eighth as Gamache led off with a base hit, pinch-runner Bobby Andrews stole second and later scored on a one-out single by Caldwell. In the ninth, Georgia tried to rally. With one out, Cone reached on a walk and DeLoach followed with his third hit of the afternoon. However Varnadore got Hester to pop out and then struck out pinch-hitter Chase Davidson.
“Auburn pitched and played great defense today, and we couldn’t get anything going,” said Georgia coach David Perno. “Our best chance came in the second inning with two on to start and then we had three straight strikeouts. We’ve been doing a good job trying to get to Birmingham for the SEC Tournament, and we were in good shape for a while but now we’ve got to come out Sunday and get after it. Our approach at the plate was better today, but we didn’t produce any runs for Michael who pitched well again.”
For the first time since the season-opening weekend at Stetson in February, Georgia heads to the final game of a series looking to avoid a sweep. The Auburn series concludes Sunday with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT. Georgia will start junior left-hander Craig Gullickson (3-2, 6.14) while the Tigers starter has not been announced.