Nevermind the fact that the Diamond Dogs needed the win to remain above .500 and impress an ESPNU audience; if you want to know how much animosity the Red and Black bear toward the Music City Mariners after last year, just check out the official pregame release out of Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, which referred to "a ridiculous attempt by the Commodores to continue the series as their city and state was subject to historic flooding that caused death and destruction." That strong language provided the prelude to a hard-fought contest that ended in a 5-4 Georgia victory.
Following a scoreless first frame in which each club carded a hit and both squads stranded a baserunner, the Music City Mariners went out in front in the top of the second stanza when right fielder Mike Yastrzemski---yes, that Yastrzemski---notched a leadoff single, swiped second, and came home on a double by catcher Curt Casali. Following a baserunner-advancing groundout and a walk, second baseman Riley Reynolds dropped the base hit into right field that plated another run. A single by left fielder Tony Kemp made it 3-0.
Georgia retorted in the home half of the canto when designated hitter Chase Davidson sent a leadoff home run to center field, but Vanderbilt reclaimed its three-run lead in the top of the third inning, thanks to a leadoff homer by first baseman Aaron Westlake. The power outburst continued in the bottom of the frame, as right fielder Peter Verdin led off with a home run to left field.
After the Commies went three up and three down in the fourth stanza, the Bulldogs came back up to bat and, with two outs against them, used a walk and a pair of singles to post their third run of the night. Starter Michael Palazzone settled in following a rocky start, retiring the side in the fifth and sixth cantos, then the Bulldogs loaded the bases in the latter inning on a double, a base on balls, and a single. Second baseman Levi Hyams drew the two-out walk that forced another run across and tied the game.
The seventh frame saw Palazzone retire the visitors in sequence and the Red and Black load the bases with two outs before a wild pitch allowed the home team to score the go-ahead run. Westlake’s leadoff single in the eighth stanza produced the first Vanderbilt baserunner since the third inning, but Palazzone struck out the next batter, extracted a flyout from Yastrzemski, and coaxed a groundout from Casali.
After the Diamond Dogs had an uneventful turn at the plate, Palazzone came back in to close out the contest in the ninth canto. A flyout, a strikeout, and a groundout later, Georgia had a huge win in its hip pocket to avenge the Commodores’ absurd and irresponsible decision of a year ago and keep the Classic City Canines in NCAA Tournament contention.
Palazzone’s complete-game performance saw him surrender four earned runs on eight hits, strike out six, and retire 19 of the final 20 batters he faced in the course of throwing six straight scoreless stanzas. The Bulldogs out-hit the Commodores, 10-8, and committed no errors. This was exactly what this team needed. With another win this weekend and one more in Hoover, the Red and Black will be NCAA Regional-bound.