May 28, 2011
HOOVER, ALA.---- Third-ranked Florida advanced to the SEC Tournament Championship game with a 3-2 win over Georgia Saturday at Regions Park.
The Bulldogs (31-30) forced an elimination game after beating the Gators 4-3 earlier Saturday. The Gators (44-16) will face Vanderbilt in Sunday's final. Georgia goes 3-2 in the tournament and finishes third.
In game two, Georgia grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first as second baseman Levi Hyams led off with a double, went to third on a bounce out by centerfielder Lance Martin and scored on a base hit by shortstop Kyle Farmer. Iin the second, Florida freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson experienced some control issues. He walked three in the inning and then a wild pitch allowed Georgia to go up 2-0. The Gators responded in the third, tying the game courtesy of a two-run home run from shortstop Nolan Fontana. It was his fourth of the year and came off Bulldog starter Patrick Boling. Later in the inning with two more Gators on and two out, Georgia brought in senior right-hander John Herman, and he got the final out. Herman ended up tossing a career-high 3.1 scoreless innings as the game remained tied at 2-all heading to the bottom of the sixth.
Following a one-out single in the sixth by Bulldog left fielder Peter Verdin, Florida went to its bullpen, bringing in left-hander Nick Maronde for Whitson. Whitson allowed two runs on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts in 5.1 innings. Both teams' bullpens kept it a tie game going to the ninth.
In the ninth, designated hitter Vikash Ramjit smacked a leadoff double off of senior right-hander Eric Swegman. Left fielder Daniel Pigott followed with a sacrifice bunt to move him to third. AT that point, Georgia turned to junior left-hander Craig Gullickson to face the left-handed hitting Cody Dent. With the infield in, Dent drew a walk to bring up Fontana. He bounced one to second base and the Bulldogs looked to be out of trouble as they started to turn a double play but Fontana just beat the throw. On the play, Ramjit scored to give Florida a 3-2 lead. Austin Maddox came in to pick up his fifth save but not before Kevin Ruiz collected his second double of the day. Tommy Toledo (4-3) got the win by pitching a scoreless eighth frame while Swegman dropped to 1-1.
"It would've been great to win that second game and get to the final, but overall, this team showed a lot of heart and fight to get three wins here including over SEC champions South Carolina and Florida after dropping that first one on Wednesday," said Georgia coach David Perno. "We pride ourselves on playing a tough schedule, and it probably helped us make this run here and hopefully did enough this season to get a regional bid."
"Our year so far has been a bit of a roller coaster, but when we get knocked down, we've always gotten back up, and we have a short memory," said junior pitcher Michael Palazzone. "We lost that first game here and knew we had to win the next three, and that's just what we did."
The NCAA will announce the tournament field of 64 on Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET live on ESPN. The Bulldogs are hopeful of earning an at-large bid after playing the nation's toughest rated schedule and owners of an RPI at No. 16 entering play Saturday. The Bulldogs are 16-18 against top 25 teams this year, and that was the most games and wins of any SEC club.