The No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs defeated the No. 14 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 6-5 Friday night at Foley Field in the first game of a weekend-long series.
Georgia junior right-hander Emerson Hancock made his third start of the season versus Georgia Tech in impressive fashion as he retired the first nine batters he faced.
Through the first three innings, Hancock didn’t allow a baserunner until the Yellow Jackets’ leadoff hitter Luke Waddell doubled to open up the fourth inning. With one out, Georgia Tech had runners in scoring position when Drew Compton singled scoring Waddell giving them a 1-0 lead. With the bases loaded, Hancock responded by retiring the next two batters to escape the jam.
“Emerson did a great job starting off the game retiring the first few guys he faced,” said reliever Ryan Webb. “He really held them off in that fourth inning, and that was huge getting out of the jam with the bases juiced.”
Georgia Tech starting pitcher Jonathan Hughes struggled in the first three innings but kept Georgia scoreless as they stranded five baserunners.
It wasn’t until junior Chaney Rogers doubled to open up the bottom of the fourth when the Bulldogs recorded their first hit. Freshman Buddy Floyd reached on an error moving Rogers to third. During the next at-bat, center fielder Ben Anderson singled scoring Rogers and tied the game, 1-1.
Shortstop Cam Shepherd kept the streak going by singling to center scoring Floyd. Next up, Tucker Bradley delivered a three-run bomb giving Georgia a 5-1 lead. That was Bradley’s fifth home run of the season, and his team-leading 16th RBI.
“I think it’s timely hitting,” said Bradley when asked about Georgia’s slow start on offense. “You know, we noticed the bats weren’t going, and so when we had the opportunity they walked a couple guys, a couple balls dropped. So that’s when we found the opportunity to strike.”
The Yellow Jackets added another run in the fifth as Michael Guldberg singled, cutting Georgia’s lead to 5-2. Hancock ended the inning by striking out right fielder Baron Radcliff totaling his eighth strikeout of the night.
In the sixth, Georgia Tech had runners in scoring position with no outs as Jackson Webb singled scoring Compton. At that point, Georgia led 5-3, but Yellow Jackets continued to hit Hancock well as they added another run.
That’s when junior lefty Ryan Webb came in to replace Hancock with two outs. The Yellow Jackets scored one more run cutting Georgia’s lead to 5-4.
Hancock finished the game giving up four earned runs while striking out ten in 5.2 innings pitched. That was the fourth time in Hancock’s career at UGA that he has struck out at least ten batters or more in a game.
Webb was perfect in the seventh inning as he retired all three batters, getting the first two to fly out and striking out the third.
With two outs in the seventh, Georgia added an insurance run when senior Patrick Sullivan singled driving in Cole Tate to extend the lead to 6-4. During the next at-bat, Buddy Floyd drew a walk loading the bases, but Ben Anderson struck swinging ending the inning.
After getting the first two outs in the eighth, Georgia Tech had runners threatening with Luke Waddell up. Waddell got ahead in the count early, but Webb was able to battle back to strike him out. The Bulldogs were able to escape the inning with just one hit allowed as the Yellow Jackets left two runners on base.
In the ninth, Yellow Jackets’ Colin Hall started off the inning by hitting a double off the wall but was thrown out at third during the next at-bat by Georgia catcher Shane Marshall. Webb struggled against the next two batters as Georgia Tech was able to load the bases.
Georgia’s lead was cut to 6-5 on a sac fly leaving runners on first and second for the Yellow Jackets. Ryan Webb was able to secure the win by striking out Jackson Webb for the last out of the game.
“It’s always great to get the first win on a weekend series, but ya know that’s in the past now,” said Bradley. “Bottom line is we need to move on. Winning one game means nothing in a series because we’ve got to finish the job”
Georgia scored all of their runs Friday night with two outs, and head coach Scott Stricklin said it all came down to clutch hitting.
“A couple times with nobody on and two outs we were able to get some guys on,” said Stricklin. “Then we were able to come through with guys like Patrick Sullivan. Tucker Bradley, who obviously had the three-run homer, but Patrick Sullivan was able to come through and give us that two-run lead. That’s a big cushion for Ryan Webb.”
With the win, Georgia advances to 9-1 on the season and the Yellow Jackets fall to 7-2.
Both teams will play again on Saturday in Atlanta at Russ Chandler Stadium at 2 p.m. Then the series finale is on Sunday at the Gwinnett Stripers’ Coolray Field at 2 p.m. in Lawrenceville.
Here is the video from Scott Stricklin’s postgame interview: