On Saturday afternoon, the Diamond Dogs clinched their SEC road series against Ole Miss using a score identical to that by which the Bulldog softball team beat Kentucky earlier in the day. Michael Palazzone went the distance in a nine-inning, eight-hit performance as Georgia bested the Rebels by an 8-3 margin.
The Red and Black took their initial lead in the second inning of a contest in which they never trailed. First baseman Jonathan Hester muscled a one-out single up the middle and took second on a Mississippi fielding error. Following a two-out walk drawn by catcher Joey Delmonico, right fielder Peter Verdin loaded the bases with a single, enabling second baseman Levi Hyams to plate three with a first-pitch double.
The home team got on the board in the bottom of the fourth frame when a leadoff single set the stage for a two-run homer off the bat of first baseman Matt Smith. Fortunately, the Bulldogs extended their imperiled lead when they came up to bat in the visitors’ half of the sixth stanza. Shortstop Kyle Farmer singled, designated hitter Brett DeLoach walked, and both baserunners advanced on a wild pitch, putting Hester in a position to plate one with a groundout and allowing third baseman Curt Powell to push another run across with a single.
A first-pitch solo home run by shortstop Blake Newalu in the home half of the canto got the Rebs within two, but it was all Georgia from there. A leadoff single by Hyams, a sacrifice bunt by left fielder Conor Welton, and singles by Farmer and DeLoach tacked on one run in the seventh inning. A leadoff walk by Delmonico, a stolen base, a sacrifice bunt by Verdin, and a sacrifice fly by Hyams added another in the eighth frame. A leadoff single by Farmer, a double by center fielder Zach Cone, and a sacrifice fly by Hester generated one more in the ninth canto.
Ole Miss got only one baserunner past second base following the fourth stanza, while every Diamond Dog who stepped into the batter’s box carded at least one hit. Although Georgia failed to capitalize fully on every scoring opportunity, the Classic City Canines out-hit their hosts 14-8 and were led at the plate by Jonathan Hester (2 for 4, 2 RBI) and Levi Hyams (2 for 4, 4 RIWWB). Far from fading down the stretch, the Bulldogs outscored the Rebels 5-1 in the final four innings.
The Red and Black, winners of seven straight, will go for their second consecutive SEC series sweep on Sunday afternoon.