March 5, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
ATHENS, Ga. – One day after scoring six runs with two outs, Florida State failed to win the battle of timely hitting on a cool and damp Saturday afternoon at Foley Field.
Georgia broke a 1-1 deadlock with a run in the seventh to hand the fifth-ranked Seminoles (9-1) their first loss of the season, 2-1. In the process, the Bulldogs (3-7) snapped a six-game series losing streak at the hands of FSU.
Peter Verdin tripled to start the home seventh for the Bulldogs and scored on Johnathan Taylor’s sacrifice fly to center off reliever Mack Waugh (0-1), who was saddled with the loss.
“They did a very good job of getting it done in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings when we had a chance to do something,” FSU coach Mike Martin said of the host Bulldogs. “Take your hat off to them and move to tomorrow.”
The Bulldogs prevailed behind an outstanding collective pitching effort from starter Michael Palazzone and relievers Patrick Boling and Tyler Maloof. The combined for 10 strikeouts and limited the Seminoles to seven hits. FSU was out-hit for the first time this season, 8-7.
FSU squandered a chance to overcome a 2-1 deficit in the top of the eighth when Justin Gonzalez walked and Devon Travis reached on an infield single off Boling. Both runners moved up on a passed ball before Boling struck out Sherman Johnson.
“I thought we’d at least get one out of it to tie it up,” Martin said. “I didn’t think there were too many guys who could go `boom, boom, boom’ to those three hitters that he struck out. Take your hat off to Boling. He did a good job.”
The Seminoles threatened again in the ninth as pinch-hitter Rafael Lopez looped a leadoff single to right-center and pinch-hitter Stephen McGee worked Boling for a one-out walk. That’s when the Bulldogs turned to their closer – Maloof – who struck out Gonzalez and Travis to seal the win and earn the save.
Florida State’s lone run of the game came in the second inning.
Seminoles’ senior Parker Brunelle, from nearby Snellville, Ga., made the most of his first start of the season. The switch-hitting catcher sent the first pitch he saw from Georgia right-hander Michael Palazzone over the right field fence, staking FSU starter Brian Busch to a 1-0 lead.
It was Brunelle’s first homer since April 9 of last season at Wake Forest.
“It was good for me and great for the team,” Brunelle said. “It was nice to be able to come back home – I know a bunch of those guys over there [in the Georgia dugout] – so that was a fun little thing for me, to help the team.”
In front of a host of family and friends, Brunelle’s blast came against his former Wesleyan School teammate.
“I actually played with Palazzone back in high school and I know him pretty well and caught him a lot,” Brunelle said. “It didn’t surprise me that he was going to come after me. I saw it coming out of his hands pretty well. It was a good looking pitch and I wanted to jump, but I told myself to sit back a little bit and get a good first swing. I got lucky enough to put it over the fence.”
Palazzone settled down nicely after that, yielding only a pair of singles to McGee and a Travis double to earn his first win of the season.
Georgia tied the game in the fifth on Levi Hyams’ two-out double to right field.
FSU starter Brian Busch left after five innings, yielding one earned run on six hits. The junior left-hander struck out two and issued just one walk.
“Brian had the best curveball I’ve seen him have in his three years here,” Martin said. “I was very, very pleased with his outing.”
Florida State will headed into the series rubber-match trying to extend their streak of 20 consecutive Sunday victories. Right-hander Scott Sitz (2-0) will try and earn his second victory of the week after knocking off No. 1 Florida on Tuesday.
“This is one of those games early in the season that’s a good test for our team, to see what we’ll do tomorrow,” said Brunelle. “We didn’t hit very well, but it will be good to see what we can do tomorrow … and see how we bounce back after a loss like this.”