Palazzone Shuts Down No. 1 Florida

When the Gators needed a run, they couldn't push one across. No. 1 Florida had chances in the early innings but couldn't capitalize. During the late innings, it was Georgia pitching that shut the door. The Gators recorded their last hit in the fourth inning and were shut down by Bulldogs starter Michael Palazzone as Georgia tied the series with a 5-3 win on Saturday.

"Credit Michael Palazzone," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He threw great. He has been in this league for now his fourth year. He made pitches all night long."

The Georgia senior has made his make in the SEC. He was inconsistent during his first two years on the Georgia pitching staff before making a big leap as a junior. Palazzone went 10-5 last season, including one of those wins over the Gators.

On Saturday, he did it again.

He came into the game with a 1-5 record and a 5.81 ERA. He pitched better than those numbers on Saturday and ended the day throwing eight innings, allowing six hits, three runs and one walk while recording six strikeouts.

"It's always tough to beat a pitcher who has got a three-pitch mix, three good pitches he could throw all for strike and he competes," Florida right fielder Preston Tucker said. "Obviously his numbers haven't quite shown his ability this year, but we knew what we were going to get with (him) last year.

"He did an outstanding job. He did it again today. Unfortunately, when we had runners in scoring positions, we couldn't quite get the job done. When a guy like that comes out on the mound, it's tough to get a whole lot of guys on."

The Florida offense started early. Mike Zunino worked a rare walk against Palazzone—he ranked fifth in the country in fewest walks allowed last season—with two outs in the first inning. Tucker knew the Georgia right-hander would stay away from him, so he stayed with his approach and lined a ball into the left field bleachers to give Florida a 2-1 lead.

"It was a fastball away," Tucker said. "The past week or so, I've been hitting a couple balls really hard just foul. I tried to change my sights just a little bit, try to stay away, get a pitch up in the zone and look to drive it."

Daniel Pigott's solo home run in the fourth inning was the only other runs Florida put on the board.

Brian Johnson started on the mound for the Gators and was solid outside of one inning. The junior left-hander allowed three runs in the third inning and exited after tying a career high with seven innings pitched. Georgia secured seven hits and four runs off Johnson.

His outing was even more important with Florida relievers Greg Larson, Austin Maddox and Steven Rodriguez all getting the day off after being extended during Friday night's 16-inning game.

"(Johnson) gave us seven full and (Magliozzi) did a good job," O'Sullivan said. "Other than the one inning, Brian pitched good. He pitched well enough to win. We just didn't swing the bats."

The rubber match of the series will be Sunday at 3 p.m. and televised on ESPN2. Florida will start junior right-hander Hudson Randall against Georgia freshman right-hander Luke Crumley, who will make the first SEC start of his career. When Randall comes out, O'Sullivan expected Karsten Whitson to be first out of the bullpen.

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