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    Auburn Defeats Georgia

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    2012 SEC Baseball Tournament
    Game 7- Auburn 3, Georgia 2

    Box Score
    Video Highlights

    HOOVER, Ala. – Justin Bryant got a line-out from Georgia’s Colby May with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth as the Auburn baseball team survived an elimination game with a 3-2 win on Wednesday afternoon at the SEC Tournament at Regions Park. The win improved Auburn’s record to 31-27 and kept the team at the tournament for at least one more day, where it will face the loser of the Vanderbilt-South Carolina game at 4:30pm on Thursday on CSS.

    “It has been the theme all year; every game, every situation, every pitch, and here we are again. Ninth inning, anything can happen,” Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. “We were very fortunate today to come out with a win. I am really proud of our team. We responded well today.”

    Bryant, who had homered in the third inning to put Auburn up, 3-0, entered with two on and two out in the eighth and Auburn clinging to a one-run lead. He needed just four pitches to strike out Georgia’s Curt Powell, who was already 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, to preserve the one-run advantage.

    “Justin Bryant is one of the truest competitors we have on the team. He swung the bat and got on the mound. I am really pleased with our club tonight,” Pawlowski said.

    Georgia would not go quietly, however. After a ground out started the ninth, Kyle Farmer tripled to right-center, putting the tying run at third with only one out. Auburn opted to pull the infield in for Brett DeLoach and Bryant induced a hard chopper to Dan Glevenyak at short, who looked Farmer back before going to first. Georgia then worked a pair of walks, the second after Bryant had Peter Verdin down 0-2, before May lined out to Bobby Andrews in left, who squeezed the glove for the final out.

    Bryant picked up his seventh save of the season with his 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief.

    Auburn took a 1-0 lead in the first when Jay Gonzalez walked, stole second and scored from second on a Patrick Savage single back up the middle.

    Gonzalez then led off the third with a single to left and stole second, going to third as Georgia catcher Joey Delmonico’s throw sailed into center. A Creede Simpson RBI groundout followed for a two-run lead before Bryant blasted a two-out solo home to left, his fourth career home run in seven career games against Georgia.

    “It’s the SEC Tournament and your focus is turned up a little bit. I just happened to get a couple of pitches up that I could handle,” Bryant said of his home run.

    Auburn would get the leadoff guy on in four out of the first five innings, stealing second all four times as the team finished with five steals, one shy of the SEC Tournament single-game record.

    Georgia got two runs back in the eighth off of reliever Derek Varnadore when Hunter Cole walked, Verdin singled and singles from pinch hitter Nelson Ward and Conor Welton each drove in runs, setting up the nail-biting ninth.

    Auburn starter Daniel Koger (4-5) got the win, holding Georgia scoreless through 5 1/3 despite surrendering seven hits and a walk. Georgia would put a runner in scoring position in the first, fourth, fifth and sixth innings against Koger but Auburn’s defense, which played an errorless game, got Koger out of the jam each time.

    “Daniel Koger, to go out in that environment as a freshman, I thought he did a tremendous job,” Pawlowski said.

    Georgia’ Michael Palazzone (2-7) took the loss, allowing all three of Auburn’s runs in 4 1/3 innings on six hits and three walks.

    Varnadore would be charged for two runs in 2 1/3 innings. The senior entered in the sixth with two on and one out but induced a fly out and a ground out to end the inning. He followed with a scoreless seventh before getting into trouble in the eighth.

    Catcher Caleb Bowen finished the game 1-for-4 but his play behind the plate, including his blocking of balls in the dirt in the bottom of the ninth, earned praise from Bryant and Pawlowski.

    “For Caleb to block that ball in the ninth, that was a tremendous play,” Pawlowski said.

    “Having (Bowen) behind the plate gives you confidence. He is like a brick wall,” Bryant said. “You can throw anything you want to, nothing is getting by him.”

    2012 SEC Baseball Tournament
    Post-Game Notes
    Regions Park • Hoover, Ala.

    Game 7 • Wednesday, May 23
    (10) Auburn 3, (8) Georgia 2

    •    With the win, Auburn narrows the all-time SEC Tournament series to 3-4 with Georgia and extends their all-time series lead to 102-82.
    •    The Tigers improve to 31-27 on the season and will take on the loser of Vanderbilt/South Carolina tomorrow at 4:30.  Georgia is eliminated from the SEC Tournament with a 31-26 record.
    •    Georgia is now on a four game losing streak.
    •    Umpire A.J. Lostaglio returned to the field after being forced to leave due to being hit in the forearm by a wild pitch in last night’s game between Vanderbilt and Georgia. He returned as the second base umpire with a cast on his left arm.
    •    Auburn OF Jay Gonzalez went on to steal his 29th and 30th bases of the season, which leads the SEC. Three Tigers hold the top three spots among the conference in stolen bases in Gonzalez, Creede Simpson, and Ryan Tella. Gonzalez later scored his 47th and 48th runs of the season to move into third in the SEC. Gonzalez reaching base also pushes his reached base streak to 13.
    •    Simpson went on to steal his 25th base of the season in the fifth inning.
    •    Georgia 3B Curt Powell drew a walk in the first and has now reached base safely in 10 consecutive games. He then singled in the fifth inning to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Powell singled again in the seventh to pick up his 20th multi-hit game of the season.
    •    With a base hit in the first, Georgia 2B Levi Hyams extended his hitting streak to eight games.
    •    Auburn 2B Creede Simpson added onto to his team-leading RBI total by driving in his 39th run of the season in the third inning.
    •    Tigers’ DH Justin Bryant connected on his fourth home run and his 20th RBI of the season. His last home run came on May 5th against Georgia, which also came off of Bulldog starter Michael Palazzone. Bryant went on to pick up his seventh save of the season as he came on with two out in the eighth.
    •    Auburn’s Patrick Savage picked up a RBI single in the first and his second single in the third. It was his fifth multi-hit game of the season.
    •    As a team, Auburn stole five bases in the game, one shy of an SEC Tournament single-game record.
    •    With a base hit in the bottom of the sixth, Georgia’s Peter Verdin has reached base safely in nine straight games. He later singled in the eighth for his 16th multi-hit game of the season.
    •    Auburn SP Daniel Koger put together one of his best starts of his young career, going 5.1 innings without giving up any runs. It’s only the second time he has left a game without giving up any runs. He improved to 4-5 on the season and earned his first win since April 28th against Tennessee.  
    •    In his last eight outings, Auburn’s RP Derek Varnadore has pitched 27.1 innings, earning a 3-1 record and one save, while only allowing nine earned runs (2.97 ERA) with 20 strikeouts.
    •    Georgia’s Caleb Farmer came through with his third triple of the season with one out in the bottom of the ninth. The triple tied him for the team lead with Peter Verdin.
    •    Georgia finished with 12 hits on the afternoon, but left 12 runners on base. In two games, they totaled 18 hits and 20 runners left on while only scoring three total runs.

    Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski
    Opening statement:
    “This has kind of been the theme the whole year, every game, every pitch, every situation. Here we are again in the ninth inning and anything could happen. We are very fortunate today to come out with a win. I am really proud of our team; I felt they responded well today. Daniel Koger did an outstanding job. As a freshman to go out there in that environment and first time starting in a tournament, I thought that he did an amazing job. There were a couple of plays in that game which I thought were very important. In the first inning, I think, they had first and second. Zach Alvord came in and made a great play on a bunt. Caleb Bowen, to be able to block that breaking ball in the bottom of the ninth…what a block.  Justin Bryant is one of the truest competitors on our team.”

    On Daniel Koger as a pitcher…
    “At this point in the season, I am not really sure when a freshman is still a freshman or when they turn that corner. He has had a tremendous year for us. He has had some moments when he didn’t throw the ball as well as he is capable of, but he is pitching some big situations. We have a ton of confidence in him. He is a guy that is a big part and will continue to be a big part of what we are doing here.”

    Justin Bryant (Sr., DH/P)
    On how he is able to do so well against Georgia…
    “(In) the SEC tournament your focus is turned up a little bit. I just happened to get a couple of pitches off that I could handle, and ended up putting lucky swings on them. It is nothing personal against Georgia, it’s just tournament time.”

    Daniel Koger (Fr., P)
    On his mindset coming into the tournament...
    “It’s a lot of pressure, but you push the pressure aside. Guys went out there and just played the game of baseball. I don’t believe that there were any errors today. So the defense stepped up big. We put on some runs early on, which lets the pitchers throw some strikes and let the defense work.”

    Caleb Bowen (Sr., C)
    On calling the pitches…
    “It was a little off and on. Coach had them mostly tonight. It was a great experience for me. It was my first tournament start. It was exciting, especially that last inning; he [Justin Bryant] made me a little nervous. I got faith that I can block it, and I know he can throw it. It turned out well for us. ”

    Georgia Head Coach David Perno
    Opening statement:
    “We played hard, just had an extremely difficult time hitting with runners in scoring position. It’s worn on us. I’m really proud of our bullpen. I thought they did a great job. Obviously in retrospect, I would have done something a little different with our starters. That’s on me, because obviously they weren’t as good as they should’ve been at this time of the year so I would have probably gone a different route in game one and given Alex and Michael an extra day, and I think we would have been in better shape.”

    On if he thinks the team had to win this game to make the NCAA Tournament…
    “We wanted to win the game to win the game to stay around here. We love this tournament. We love this place. Hoover does a great job. We want to stay around. There’s nothing like it. You play all season to get here. When you get here, you want to win. Nothing else. That’s it.”

    On what he thinks the chances are of making the NCAA Tournament…
    “I’m not in that business. I’m trying to coach this team. I don’t know. We have quality wins. We’ve beaten everybody, at least once, that we’ve played. It’s a situation where it’s out of our hands. I know we could have done a better job on our end of controlling it, but right now it’s kind of out of our hands. I think we’re a good baseball team, and I would love for them to get a shot, but again, we’ve made it hard and definitely have put it in other people’s hands.”