Georgia did it again. The Bulldogs won their second game in a row at the SEC Tournament, this time knocking off top-seeded South Carolina 4-2 in the third round on Friday.
The Bulldogs (30-29), who lost on the tournament’s first day, will face elimination for a third time this afternoon (about 1 p.m. or so) against Florida, which they’ll have to beat twice to reach the championship game.
Georgia has to win today’s game in order to meet the NCAA tournament’s criteria of finish with an over-.500 record. Of course, you knew it would come down to this right? It was only logical in the sadistically difficult season that has been 2011 for the Bulldogs. You knew they’d push it to the absolute brink.
They’ll definitely have motivation on their side. The Gators (43-15) are a Top 5 team and already assured of postseason play. Plus, Georgia is expecting to receive a visit from injured center fielder Johnathan Taylor. Paralyzed and wheelchair-bound since an early-season outfield collision, it will be the second game Taylor has attended. He also attended Georgia’s win over Georgia Tech at Ted Turner Field back in April.
Following is a report on Friday’s game:
Hoover, Ala. — Georgia upset second-ranked South Carolina 4-2 Friday in an SEC Tournament elimination game in front of a Regions Park crowd of 8,068.
Georgia (30-29) now must beat fifth-ranked Florida on Saturday to be eligible for an NCAA at-large bid. The game will start around 1 p.m. EDT as it will follow the Arkansas-Vanderbilt contest slated to begin at 10:30 a.m. EDT. Should Georgia defeat the Gators, they would play them a second time Saturday night with the winner advancing to the SEC Tournament Championship game on Sunday.
On Friday, Georgia went on top 3-0 in the first getting three hits and taking advantage of two Gamecock miscues. Sophomore shortstop Kyle Farmer delivered an RBI-single and designated hitter Chase Davidson notched a two-run single to highlight frame off right-hander Colby Holmes. South Carolina had a chance to answer right back with three consecutive singles to start the second inning. Centerfielder Evan Marzilli made it 3-1 with an RBI-single to get the Gamecocks on the board. Sophomore left-hander Blake Dieterich battled back to strikeout Robert Berry before issuing a walk to Steven Neff to load the bases. Then, he struck out designated hitter DeSean Anderson and got Peter Mooney to pop out to maintain the Bulldog advantage. Georgia got a run back in the bottom of the inning as Zach Cone smacked an RBI-single to make it 4-1.
In the third, the Gamecocks threatened again, loading the bases with one out. Marzilli collected his second run-scoring single and that brought up Berry. Georgia avoided any further trouble when Dieterich got him to bounce to Farmer as the Bulldogs turned a double play to keep it 4-2. The Gamecocks went to the bullpen to start the bottom of the sixth turning to John Taylor. Holmes went five innings and allowed four runs on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts, falling to 6-3.
Following a one-out walk in the seventh, Georgia lifted Dieterich in favor of sophomore Bryan Benzor. Dieterich (3-3) provided a career-high 6.1 innings, scattering two runs on six hits with four walks and two strikeouts in his third start of the year out of 27 appearances. After getting Wingo to hit in to fielder’s choice, Christian Walker singled to move him into scoring position. Benzor battled back to strikeout cleanup hitter Jake Williams. He went 1.2 scoreless innings with one strikeout, and in the ninth, Georgia turned to sophomore closer Tyler Maloof. He pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 18 chances, and it was the 20th for the Bulldogs overall, which is a school record.
“We had a quick start, and we’ve been watching a lot of teams do that in this tournament, and we finally did it tonight,” said Georgia coach David Perno. “Blake managed to limit South Carolina’s runs, and we’ve been pretty good this season protecting a lead. We knew if he could get us through the middle innings, we had Bryan and Tyler late, and they did an outstanding job too.”
“I struggled a bit with my command early but I got a couple big double plays, and that helped me settle in,” said Dieterich.
On Monday when the Bulldogs visited injured teammate Johnathan Taylor at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta on their way to the tournament, Taylor told the Bulldogs if they made it to Saturday , he would do his best to be there with them.
“Saturday is going to be a big day for us, J.T. (Taylor) is going to be here, it’s going to be an emotional day,” Farmer added.