A combination of a strong pitching performance and a consistent big bat presence propelled Georgia over UMass 16-2.
Cole Wilcox (3-0, 2.00 ERA) got the start on Saturday at Foley Field and continued to pitch well.
Wilcox ran into some trouble in the second as the Minutemen struck first on Jordan Erbe’s single to drive in the first run. After a mound visit, the Minutemen had runners on the corners, but Wilcox held strong as he struck out the side. He mowed down Steve Luttazi swinging and got Christian Pearsons looking.
Georgia fired right back in the bottom half of the inning as Connor Tate led off with a single, and his twin brother Cole homered to left the next at-bat. That gave Georgia a 2-1 lead, but they weren’t done yet. Minutemen starting pitcher Ben Shields loaded the bases with a pair of two-out walks, and shortstop Cam Shepherd’s single drove in two more runs. With two runners on base, Tucker Bradley was due up next.
Bradley battled in a 2-2 count, but then hit a laser to center clearing the bases as he ended up at second. Bradley then stole third, and Connor Tate reached first in his second at-bat of the inning with a walk. Cole Tate got his second hit of the inning that drove in Bradley to extend Georgia’s lead to 7-1. The Bulldogs added three more on a trio of singles by Riley King, Patrick Sullivan, and Shane Marshall to go up 10-1.
In the bottom of the third, the Tate twins added more firepower to the offense. Connor reached base safely on an error and then scored on Cole’s double. At that point, that was Cole’s third hit of the game and his fourth RBI. Through the first three innings, both Oconee County natives had combined four of Georgia’s ten hits.
“Before the game we talked about having good AB’s, no matter if it was strikeout, groundout or pop out,” said Cole. “It’s always good to have a good AB and good approach. “
Wilcox stayed cruising in the fourth and fifth innings as he retired six-of-seven batters during that span. In the bottom of the fourth, the offense kept rolling by adding five more runs to put Georgia up 16-1. Four of those five runs were credited as earned runs to Minutemen pitcher Kevin Dow.
Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin did some shuffling of the defense in the top half of the fifth; Cole Tate moved from second to shortstop, Garrett Blaylock entered at third replacing King, King moved to center replacing Anderson, Buddy Floyd entered at second replacing Bradley, Chaney Rogers entered replacing Sullivan at first.
Sophomore right-hander Jack Gowen came into to relieve Wilcox in the sixth. Wilcox finished pitching five complete innings allowing one earned run on four hits, and striking out six. Gowen impressed as he retired all three batters he faced, striking out two of them.
“It was nice to have those long innings where I could rest up, but I also was itching to get back out there, too,” said Wilcox. “I probably could have went longer if those innings weren’t so long, but I am glad that Jack got to go out there after and get some confidence.”
This was Gowen’s third appearance of the season, and coming into the game he had a 6.75 ERA with only 2 2/3 innings pitched. Gowen added three more strikeouts in the seventh, and that totaled five.
“That’s the best Jack has thrown the ball since he’s been here,” said Stricklin. “He came in here with a guy who we really thought could be a big part of our staff, and he’s just continued to work. He’s a hard worker and a tough kid. He’s really competitive, and it was good to see him throw like that.”
In the eighth, Gowen was replaced by freshman Cain Tatum, who pitched recording two strikeouts. Right-hander Darryn Pasqua got the nod in the ninth to finish out the game.
The Minutemen did a run in the top of the ninth to cut the deficit to 14, but Pasqua was able to close out the game strong by striking out two of three.
“…We’ve got 27 innings over the next four days, and we are going to try and maximize our pitching staff the most we can so we don’t burn anyone out,” said Stricklin. “That’s why Jack (Gowen) didn’t finish the game today. With a game on Tuesday, then Wednesday – we want to see guys compete, but be able to rest up as well.”
Things to know…
…Bradley has now reached base safely in every game this year.
…Anderson extends his hitting streak to ten games, which is a new career-high.
…Georgia had a big 10 run inning in the bottom half of the second. The last time the Diamond Dogs scored double-digits in an inning was in 2018 against Kennesaw State, when they scored 11 runs in the sixth in a 14-4 win.
…Nine of those 10 runs in the second inning came with two outs.
…Cole Tate’s four RBI game is a career-high, and Gowen’s five strikeout performance is also a career-high.
…Georgia had two stolen bases (Bradley and Marshall) in the game, and that makes 25 total on the year. The team is 25-of-27 when trying to steal this season.