Following the rain delay that followed the longest baseball game in the Diamond Dogs’ history, Georgia and Florida squared off again in Gainesville on Saturday night. Another pitchers’ duel ensued, and, this time, the Athenians got the better of their hosts, winning, 5-3.
The Red and Black took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when shortstop Kyle Farmer followed up a base hit by left fielder Conor Welton with an RBI double, but the Orange and Blue were ready to respond in their turn at the plate. Starter Michael Palazzone issued a two-out walk on a payoff pitch, then saw his next throw to home plate sent over the wall in left center field to give the Sunshine State Saurians a 2-1 advantage.
Palazzone atoned for that mistake in the bottom of the second stanza when, after surrendering consecutive singles, he coaxed a double-play grounder from the ensuing Florida batter. This put the Classic City Canines in a position to take the lead in the visitors’ half of the third frame. Third baseman Curt Powell led off with a base hit, then center fielder Peter Verdin sacrificed him over to second.
Welton tacked on the single that put runners at the corners, and, although Farmer hit into a fielder’s choice, the tying run crossed home plate on the play. A first-pitch double by designated hitter Brett DeLoach put two baserunners in scoring position, and second baseman Levi Hyams drove in both with a base hit.
The resulting 4-2 lead held up until the bottom of the fourth canto, when Palazzone conceded his second home run to left center field, a one-out solo shot. The next Florida batter dropped a first-pitch double into right field, and a two-out base hit sent the would-be tying run to third. Palazzone fanned the next batter to keep the hits knotted at six apiece and preserve the Athenians’ 4-3 cushion in runs.
A Gator baserunner who reached on a wild pitch after striking out made it as far as third in the bottom of the sixth inning before Palazzone coaxed a first-pitch lineout from the next Floridian to stand in, and there the Orange and Blue threat ended. In the top of the ninth stanza, pinch hitter Nelson Ward sent a first-pitch single into center field and came home on a Powell double to add an insurance run, but he need not have bothered, as closer Blake Dieterich took over in the bottom of the frame and dispensed quickly with each of the three Gator hitters he faced.
Palazzone notched the win, and Dieterich earned the save, by combining to hold the Sunshine State Saurians to six hits (three of which, admittedly, went for extra bases) and three earned runs while striking out seven and walking only one. Florida did not manage a hit after the fourth inning. After the way a fine pitching performance was wasted on Friday night, the Diamond Dogs showed great resiliency by hanging in to card the win and give themselves a chance to take the series on Sunday.