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Varnadore shuts out Bulldogs

AUBURN -- A week after his worst performance of the year, Derek Varnadore bounced back in style with a complete-game shutout over Georgia to lead Auburn to a 3-0 win.

Varnadore, who grew up in Athens, Ga., just 10 minutes from Georgia’s campus, said he was more focused on improving from last week’s start against South Carolina when he gave up four runs in 3.1 innings than facing the hometown team.

“I was more worried about myself. Last week was pretty humbling,” Varnadore said. “...We pounded the outside zone and tried to stay there all day. I wanted to come into today throwing strikes and I was glad I was able to.”

Varnadore allowed just five hits and struck out seven in 9.0 innings. Georgia tried to rally in the ninth on a one-out walk and single but Jonthan Hester flew out and Varnadore ended the game striking out pinch-hitter Chase Davidson.

“He was throwing his fastball with authority. He was spotting up and blowing it by guys,” senior catcher Tony Caldwell said.

The Bulldogs best chance to score was in the second when Zach Cone and Brett DeLoach led off with consecutive singles. But Varnadore struck out the next three batters looking to end the threat.

Auburn scored all the runs it would need in the fourth off Georgia ace Michael Palazzone. Casey McElroy led off with a single and moved to third on a double by Caldwell. An infield single by Wes Gilmer brought McElroy home and a sacrifice fly by Kevin Patterson scored Caldwell.

Palazzone (8-2) took the loss allowing two runs and six hits in 7.0 innings.

“You saw two very good pitchers going at it toe-to-toe and we were fortunate to scratch a few runs,” Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. “Varnadore’s performance was outstanding.

“...I thought his command was very good today. Like it was early in the season.”

The Tigers tacked on a run in the eighth off Chase Hawkins as Caldwell drove home pinch-runner Bobby Andrews from third on a single up the middle. Dan Gamache led off the inning with a single before being lifted for Andrews.

McElroy, Caldwell and Gilmer had two hits apiece for Auburn.

The win moves the Tigers to 25-21 overall and 11-12 in the SEC while the Bulldogs fell to 24-23 and 13-10. Auburn is still tied with Alabama for second in the SEC West and will be either 1.5 or 0.5 games behind first-place Arkansas, which plays Florida Saturday night.

Auburn will go for the 3-game series sweep Sunday at 1 pm CT. Auburn will start either sophomore right-hander Slade Smith (2-0, 6.48 ERA) or junior right-hander Zach Blatt (2-3, 8.37) against Georgia junior left-hander Craig Gullickson (3-2, 6.14).

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