2011 SEC Baseball Tournament
Game 6 -- #5 Georgia 3, #8 Auburn 2
Wood Goes The Distance As Bulldogs Eliminate Auburn
HOOVER, ALA.---- Georgia sophomore Alex Wood pitched his first career complete game to lead the Bulldogs to a 3-2 win over Auburn Thursday in an SEC Tournament elimination game at Regions Park.
Wood (5-7) allowed two runs on seven hits with three walks and eight strikeouts in going the distance to keep Georgia’s season alive in front of a crowd of 4,570. The Bulldogs improved to 29-29 while the Tigers end the year at 29-29. Georgia will play again Friday night (time TBA) against the loser of the contest featuring top-ranked South Carolina and third-ranked Vanderbilt. The SEC co-champions will square off in the final game of the Thursday session.
Auburn shortstop Casey McElroy gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead when he connected for his ninth home run of the year to leadoff the fourth inning. Auburn looked on the verge of a big inning as catcher Tony Caldwell followed with a double and then Wes Gilmer put down a sacrifice bunt and Wood’s throw to first was wide of the bag for an error. With runners at the corners and nobody out, Wood battled back to strikeout first baseman Kevin Patterson, left fielder Cullen Wacker and got designated hitter Zach Alvord to bounce into a fielder’s choice to keep it 1-0.
“Today was the first time in a while we were able to avoid a big inning and credit Alex Wood for getting out of that big jam,” said Georgia coach David Perno. “We made our hits count today and took advantage of the one mistake that Auburn made.”
In the fifth, Auburn took advantage of a couple of two-out walks to push its lead to 2-0 following a run-scoring single by Caldwell. Georgia looked to rally in the bottom of the frame with one-out singles from third baseman Curt Powell and catcher Brandon Stephens. However, right fielder Peter Verdin (3-for-4) bounced one to shortstop and the Tigers turned a double play that featured a close call at first to send it to the sixth.
Georgia grabbed a 3-2 advantage with a three-run outburst in the sixth as the Tigers made a critical error that allowed a pair of runs to score. Junior second baseman Levi Hyams started the Bulldog rally with a base hit and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Conor Welton. Shortstop Kyle Farmer moved him to third with a base hit to right. Junior left fielder Zach Cone got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard in the SEC Tournament with an RBI-double and Farmer went to third. Designated hitter Chase Davidson grounded to McElory and his throw was off the mark. Farmer scored on the play to tie the game and when the throw dribbled away from Patterson, Cone raced home with the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the seventh, Verdin notched his second hit of the afternoon and then with one out, Welton got his second hit which ended right-hander Derek Varnadore’s outing. Auburn turned to right-hander Slade Smith to face Farmer and Cone, and he retired them both. Varnadore (6-3), who tossed a complete game shutout of the Bulldogs on May 7 in Auburn, went 6.1 innings and allowed three runs on 10 hits Thursday. Meanwhile, Wood said he felt good in going the distance and credited the Bulldog hitters for coming through to aid in the victory. Georgia bounced back from a 10-0 loss to the Commodores Wednesday when it managed just one hit and saw the game end in the seventh due to the mercy rule.
“What I said to the team after that and today wasn’t PG-rated,” Perno added. “I told them flat out that you don’t want to be remembered as the sympathy team; the team that played a tough schedule and faced adversity. You want to be respected, and we didn’t play like that on Wednesday. I was proud of how they came out today and played closer to our identity.”
• Georgia is now 4-2 all-time against Auburn in the SEC Tournament, with their last meeting coming in the 2001 tournament that saw Georgia come away with an 8-4 victory.
• With the win, Georgia now holds a 29-29 overall record. Auburn falls to 29-29 also.
• In the SEC Tournament, Georgia is now 26-37. Auburn is 29-39.
• Casey McElroy's single in the first inning extends his hit streak to 15 straight games and he has now reached base safely in 54 of 58 games.
• McElroy scored the game's first run with his solo home run to straight away center field. That was his ninth of the season and team leading 53rd RBI.
• Justin Hargett's single in the third inning gives him 189 for his career. He is now one behind Rob Macrory (1994-97) and Rock Wilson (1984-87) for eighth on the Auburn all-time list with 190.
• Catcher Tony Caldwell extended a streak of his own on Thursday afternoon. With his double in the fourth inning, he has now hit safely in 14 of the last 15 games. That double is his 13th of the year.
• Coming into the game, starting pitcher Derek Varnadore had held Georgia scoreless for nine innings earlier in the season. With his six-plus inning performance today, Varnadore had thrown 14 straight scoreless innings against the Bulldogs this season before giving up a run in sixth inning today.
• With his two hits today, Casey McElroy now has 10 hits in 19 at-bats this season against Georgia, giving him a .526 average.
• Left fielder Cullen Wacker got caught stealing twice today. It is the first time all season, Wacker has been caught stealing and he's now 3-for-5 in stolen base attempts.
• The win on Thursday gives the Bulldogs three wins in their last six conference tournament games.
• With his single in the sixth inning, Levi Hyams has hit safely in 24 of the last 28 games that Georgia has played.
• After giving up a run in the fifth inning, starting pitcher Alex Wood retired the last 11 batters he faced.
• The complete game performance is a career first for Wood. The nine innings pitched are a season and career high. The complete game is also only the third for Georgia this year. The other two came at the hands of Michael Palazzone at Ole Miss (April 9) and vs. Vanderbilt (May 19).
• The complete game performance by Wood is also the second complete game thrown by a pitcher in the SEC Tournament this year.
• The Bulldogs knocked out 13 hits compared to Auburn's seven. Georgia is now 21-3 when outhitting their opponent.
• Right fielder Peter Verdin was the big offensive player for Georgia on the day. He went 3-for-4 with three singles. That's his fifth three-hit game of the season and 22nd multi-hit game of the year.
• Even though Georgia trailed by two going into the sixth inning, they were able to take the lead for good with a three run sixth. That is only the fourth win this season Georgia has had when trailing after five innings.