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COLLEGE BASEBALL ROUNDUP: UGA splits, Ga. Tech, FSU cruise Sunday

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

WACO, TEXAS --- The 22nd-ranked Georgia Bulldogs split a doubleheader Sunday at the Baylor Ballpark, beating Duke 10-5 and falling to Baylor 5-2.

The Bulldogs finish the opening weekend 2-2, going 1-1 against the host Bears and 1-1 with the Blue Devils.

"We've got a chance, we played pretty well, but one thing we have to cut down on is the number of walks because that's not the type of pitching staff we have," said Georgia coach David Perno "We pitched around them Friday but it hurt us in our losses Saturday and Sunday. Offensively, we're missing a couple of pieces this weekend but when we get healthy, we'll be fine. I liked what I saw from our starters today in Michael Palazzone and Chase Hawkins. At the plate, Zach Cone had a tremendous weekend, he's a future Big Leaguer. Also, Peter Verdin and Johnathan Taylor had a pretty good showing and we liked what freshman Todd Hankins did too. Overall, I think we can pitch better and that will be huge for us, and we're looking forward to getting home and playing at Foley Field."

Cone led the Bulldogs by batting .688 (11-for-16) in the four games and solid defense with six putouts and two assists. Hankins hit .375 (6-for-16) while Taylor batted .357 with seven RBI and Verdin finished at .300.

In game one, Georgia cruised past the Blue Devils 10-5. Bulldog sophomore third baseman Colby May (3-for-4, 3 RBI) got the scoring started early as he blasted a two-run home run in the top of the first. For May, it snapped a 0-for-9 start to the year. He is the team's top returning slugger after hitting 11 home runs last season. Sophomore Johnathan Taylor scored on May's blast after leading off the game with a walk. The Blue Devils answered with a two-out rally in their half of the first to tie the game. Jake Lemmeran reached on a walk, advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt by right-hander Michael Palazzone and scored on a wild pitch. First baseman Jeremy Gould followed with a double and then Will Piwnica-Worms made it 2-2 with a run-scoring single. In the second, Duke went up 3-2. Second baseman Marcus Stroman smacked a one-out double, stole third and scored on a base hit by right fielder Brian Litwin.

Georgia reclaimed a 4-3 edge in the third. Freshman second baseman Todd Hankins led off with a base hit, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Taylor's run-scoring single. For Taylor, it was his seventh RBI of the weekend. May gave the Bulldogs the lead with an RBI-double. Georgia threatened to score in the fourth, loading the bases with two outs but Duke reliever Chase Bebout got Peter Verdin to ground out to keep it a one-run affair. Bebout came on in relief of freshman Devin Burke after a leadoff single to catcher Christian Glisson. Burke allowed four runs on five hits.

Georgia built a 7-3 lead in the fifth, scoring three runs on three hits as redshirt freshman Kevin Ruiz drove in one and freshman shortstop Kyle Farmer (3-for-5, 2 RBI) added a two-run single. Duke answered again with a pair of runs in its half of the frame to make it 7-5. The Bulldogs pushed their lead to 8-5 courtesy of a sacrifice fly by junior Robbie O'Bryan. The Bulldogs looked to freshman Cooper Moseley in the seventh in relief of Palazzone who went a career-long six innings in his first career start for the victory. He allowed five runs on six hits with two walks and a strikeout. In the eighth, Hankins led off with a double and later scored on a base hit by Verdin for a 9-5 advantage. Cone led off the ninth with a walk and eventually scored on a couple of passed balls for a 10-5 lead. Moseley provided two scoreless innings and senior Steve Esmonde preserved the win by pitching a perfect ninth.

In the second game Sunday, Georgia sophomore left-hander Chase Hawkins escaped a jam in the first to keep the Bears off the scoreboard. Baylor put runners at second and third with nobody out, and Hawkins got Max Muncy to pop out and then struck out Dan Evatt and Cal Towey. Georgia took a 1-0 lead in the second as Cone singled, went to third on a failed pickoff attempt by Willie Kempf and later scored on a groundout by Ruiz. Baylor tied the game in the fifth on a run-scoring single by Joey Hainsfurther off Bulldog freshman Blake Dieterich. Georgia avoided a big outburst by the Bears thanks in part to the defensive play of sophomore catcher Carson Schilling who was making his first career start. Coming in to the game, Bulldog opponents were eight-for-eight in stolen base attempts, but Schilling threw out three Bears trying to steal including two going for third base.

Hawkins scattered eight hits and one run through 4.1 innings and then Dieterich gave the Bulldogs an inning before sophomore right-hander Cecil Tanner got the call in the 1-1 game with two on and one out in the sixth. Tanner walked Chris Slater to load the bases for shortstop Landis Ware and then a couple of defensive lapses cost the Bulldogs the lead. Ware grounded one to Farmer, and the Bulldogs looked to be out of the inning, but the freshman could not find the handle and two Bears scored on the play. Then, Logan Vick grounded one to Farmer who flipped it to Hankins, however he dropped it as another run scored to give the Bears a 4-1 advantage. At that point, Perno brought the entire infield to the mound to settle everyone one down. Then, Tanner got another ground ball, this one from Hainsfurther, and the Bulldogs turned an inning-ending double play. Baylor went up 5-1 in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Raynor Campbell. Cone capped a four-hit performance with a run-scoring single in the eighth to close the gap to 5-2.

Georgia returns to action Wednesday for the home opener at Foley Field against Presbyterian. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m.

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GA. TECH WINS IN ROUT AGAIN:

ATLANTA - Sophomore pitcher Jed Bradley had a career-high 12 strikeouts while the No. 6 Georgia Tech baseball team homered four times in a 13-0 shutout win over Missouri State Sunday afternoon at Russ Chandler Stadium. The Jackets improve to 3-0 on the season while the Bears fall to 0-3.

Bradley (1-0) was terrific in his season debut, holding the Bears to just four hits and no runs while striking out 12 of the 22 batters he faced. His 12 strikeouts were the most by a Tech player since Deck McGuire fanned 13 on opening day against Lipscomb in February of 2009.

"I thought Jed [Bradley] dominated the game, and that is the way he had thrown in our intra-squad games heading into the season," head coach Danny Hall said. "Only throwing 72 pitches in six innings with 12 strikeouts -- He pitched great."

Tech poured it on at the plate for the second-consecutive game, scoring 13 runs on 17 hits, a nice follow up to a 19 hit performance on Saturday.

Leadoff home runs by junior Chase Burnette and senior Jay Dantzler in the second and fourth inning, respectively, followed by a solo shot from sophomore Matt Skole in the fifth and a grand slam from junior Cole Leonida in the seventh vaulted Tech's attack.

Burnette went a perfect 4-for-4 on the day with two singles, a double and a solo home run. He is now 8-for-11 (.727) with two home runs to start the season.

The Buford, Ga. native opened the scoring early with his home run to left field in the bottom of the second to give Tech a 1-0 lead.

The Jackets added another in the bottom of the fourth when Dantzler smashed a leadoff homer over the left field wall. His home run was the fifth leadoff round tripper of the series for Tech.

Bradley continued his dominance on the mound in the top of the fifth, striking out the side for number eight, nine and 10.

"I felt good today," sophomore pitcher Jed Bradley said. "I definitely had some pregame jitters with it being the first start of the year. I had a good slider and a good feel for it, and a great fastball, so overall I feel it was a good day."

For the second consecutive day the Jackets had a huge fifth inning, notching four runs on five hits, highlighted by Skole's blast to right field and an RBI single to center by sophomore Jacob Esch, extending the lead to 6-0.

Missouri State starter Pat Doyle (0-1) was credited with the loss on the day, and was lifted in the bottom of the fifth after surrendering five runs on 10 hits.

Bradley completed his solid day on the mound with his career-high 12th strikeout in the top of the sixth. His previous high was seven, which he tallied twice as a freshman, last against Georgia on April 14, 2009.

The Jackets reached double-digit scoring numbers in the seventh, when Leonida smashed his grand slam out of the park down the left field line to put Tech up 10-0.

Senior second baseman Jason Garofalo rounded out the scoring with a three-run double in the eighth to make it 13-0.

The Jackets will begin mid-week play with a two-game series against Georgia Southern starting Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Statesboro, Ga.

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GAST PACES FSU TO SERIES SWEEP OF GEORGIA STATE:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Behind a strong pitching performance from junior John Gast, fifth-ranked Florida State (3-0) completed the series sweep of Georgia State with a 12-2 victory Sunday afternoon on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium. With the three-game sweep, the Seminoles extended their streak of season opening series victories to 29 straight, while remaining undefeated (20-0) all-time against the Panthers at home.

"It was a good opening weekend for us," said head coach Mike Martin. "It was exciting to get this season started. The young men are excited; they know there is a lot of baseball in store for them the next couple of months."

Gast (1-0) was the story on Sunday afternoon as the crafty southpaw threw a career-high 6.0 innings in earning his first victory of the season. The Longwood, Fla., native faced the minimum through the first 3.1 innings before giving up a base hit back up the middle to pinch hitter Ryan Fleming with one out in the fourth. The hit did not phase Gast as two pitches later he forced Jonathan Kolowich into an inning ending groundball double play.

"It felt good," said Gast. "It was exciting to finally get out there. I felt good and was in the strike zone a lot. That is what really held me just being able to get in the strike zone and let them put the ball in play and let the guys behind me make all the plays."

Gast allowed just two runs on four hits as he struck out five and did not issue a walk. He faced the minimum in all but one inning on Sunday and was very efficient with his pitches leaving the game after the sixth inning throwing only 71 pitches, 50 for strikes.

"That was the main focus this offseason," added Gast on being so efficient on Sunday. "Limiting the amount of pitches can really help you go deep in the game; hopefully I can continue to limit the number of pitches in each of my outings."

"I know I saw the best outing I have seen from Johnny Gast in the three years he's been here," said a very pleased Martin. "That was electric stuff. It was as close to dominating as I can say.

"I'm very proud of him, but I am not getting excited," said Martin. "This is February the 21st. I will get excited when he continues to go out and prove that he can throw the ball like that every time he goes out there."

In his first collegiate debut, Robert Benincasa threw two scoreless innings allowing a hit and a walk while striking out three. Andrew Durden pitched a perfect ninth for his first appearance as a Seminole.

"Benny is a guy we have been very impressed with," added Martin. "I am excited for him, he is going to be in the mix if he continues to stay poised and focused and gets out there and get better. I like this young man's stuff."

For the eighth time in the series, Florida State reached double-digit runs against Georgia State and finished the series outscoring the Panthers 37-12.

"When the offense is working like that, it's a great feeling," said junior catcher Rafael Lopez. "It helps to relax the pitching staff and knock off the pressure. Hopefully we can do that every weekend; it was real nice to have that run support."

Sophomore Sherman Johnson paced the Seminole offense on Sunday as he recorded a career-high three hits on two doubles and a single.

Sophomore James Ramsey tied a school record with two triples in the series finale becoming just the sixth player in school history to perform such a feat. Ramsey also finished the game with a career-high three RBI. His first triple came in the first, with his second coming in the fifth with the bases loaded and two outs. The Alpharetta, Ga., native scorched a line drive over the head of Panther center fielder Mark Micowski to clear the bases and to give FSU a commanding 11-2 advantage.

Making his first collegiate start, freshman Justin Gonzalez went 2-for-3 with two RBI and three runs scored as he got the nod at second base. The Miami, Fla., native hit a two-run shot off the scoreboard in left center in the fourth, drew a two out walk in the fifth and tripled in the seventh.

Rafael Lopez had his multi-hit game of the season with a single and a double on Sunday. The junior catcher led off the bottom of the fourth with a single to right and followed with a two out, two-run double down the line in left in the fifth.

Stuart Tapley, starting as the Seminole designated hitter in the series finale, got the offense going on Sunday as he led off the bottom of the second with a towering solo shot to straight away center field for his first home run of the season. Tapley finished the game 1-for-3 with two RBI.

The Seminoles return to the diamond on Wednesday, February 24 at 4:00 p.m., as Florida State welcomes the North Florida Ospreys to Tallahassee. Fans can listen in locally on 1270 the Team and 94.3 FM and on the web on Seminoles.com. Junior right hander Mike McGee will get the start on Wednesday against the Ospreys.