The top-seeded Georgia Bulldogs defeated No. 4-seed Mercer, 13-3, in game two of the NCAA Athens Regional Friday evening at a sold-out Foley Field.
Next, Georgia (45-15) faces Florida State in the winner’s bracket Saturday at 7 p.m. at Foley Field. This match will follow the elimination game featuring Florida Atlantic and Mercer slated for 1 p.m.
Georgia’s Tony Locey (11-2) was the game’s winning pitcher. The junior Bulldog provided five shutout innings of work tallying seven strikeouts. Next in the bullpen for Georgia was Logan Moody and Darryn Pasqua who pitched two frames apiece. Moody finished on the mound with three strikeouts, while Pasqua pitched two scoreless innings to round out the game.
Tucker Maxwell and LJ Talley each picked up three-hit performances in Friday’s contest while Maxwell drove in six of Georgia’s 13 runs, tying a career best. Aaron Schunk went 2-for-4 at the plate while also tying his career-best five RBI.
Georgia raced through the opening frame. First, Locey struck out the side to send the Bulldogs to the plate, where they lost no time getting on base. Junior Aaron Schunk secured the team’s first home run and lead of the night, 3-0, prompting a call to the bullpen by Mercer (35-28). However, the Bulldogs weren’t phased. With the bases loaded and with two outs, Tucker Maxwell hit his second-career grand slam which allowed Georgia five runs and the 8-0 lead in the opening frame. Maxwell’s feat takes the team’s grand slam total to seven on the season, tying the school record.
It was a scoreless second inning for both teams, but Georgia found luck in the third frame. With his third hit of the contest, Maxwell took the Bulldogs’ lead to double-digits at 10-0, slicing it into right field to send first-baseman Patrick Sullivan and outfielder Randon Jernigan home. With the Bears forced to bring out their third pitcher in three innings, Georgia’s momentum remained steady. The Bulldogs racked up three more runs with a Schunk home run, making it the junior’s second two-homer game of the season. The Bulldogs led 13-0 heading into the fourth inning.
While Georgia was unable to manufacture runs in the next four innings, Mercer’s Kyle Dockus broke up the Bulldog staff’s shutout in the top of the seventh with his first home run of the season, a three-run blast, to bring the Bulldogs’ lead back to 10, 13-3.
Ike Cousins Head Coach Scott Stricklin
“First of all, I thought Tony Locey set the tone tonight in the first inning. He gave up the leadoff single with a lot of emotion in the opening game of a regional. He certainly knows a lot of those guys and a lot of those guys know him. A lot of emotion going on with Tony, pitching against his high school teammate, Tanner [Hall]. I know Tony has an emotional side to him and I thought he was really focused. Struck out the side and gave us momentum going into the dugout before we scored those eight runs. Tony gave us a great start and then I thought our hitters were really good. I do want to say that Mercer would not be here without Tanner Hall. He won and saved a game last weekend to get them here. He was really good last weekend and he came back with short rest to try to do that. He is a really good pitcher and a good kid.”
Junior Aaron Schunk
On how much it means to have a game like tonight after working towards it since this time last year…
“This is the goal we set for ourselves at this time last year. Almost everyone in this room was sitting here, sad, about a year ago. This moment is what all the work has been for. It felt really good to get that homerun. We had two really good at-bats leading up to it so I just tried to string that together. It is the collective whole that will take us as far as we can. It feels really good to be here.”
Junior Tucker Maxwell
On being hot at the beginning of the year then cooling off and then to have the game he did tonight…
“It was nice. Coach talked to us before the game and really all week about trying to come out and be yourself, about not trying to do too much. He told us if we were just ourselves everything would work out.”
Mercer head coach Craig Gibson
“Man, it was a tough environment. Georgia is as good as their national seed. [Tony] Locey was outstanding tonight — probably one of the best arms we’ve seen all year. He was dominant from the first pitch. Man, it’s a great club. That’s a fun club to watch up there. It’s tough to be on the other side of it but man, they’re good. I think our youth helped us last week to get to this point. I think it sort of showed in the first standing. We misplayed a couple balls that sort of opened the door for them and, you know, when you give those kind of clubs opportunities, things happen. They’re very talented, and like I said, Locey was outstanding tonight.”
Graduate Kel Johnson
On comparing the environment at Foley to others he’s used to (GT)…
“When I played here before, I was playing for a rival. So, it’s pretty heated, but tonight it was really a full house. It was really an electric environment, and that’s fun. You know, you hear some things said to you that, you know, I couldn’t repeat here, but like I said, the electric environment is a lot of fun for us as players, and I don’t think that that really affected as much.”
Redshirt-Junior Kyle Dockus
On what his approach was for tonight’s pitching game…
“I think we talked about it the day before, and he’s a bigger guy and was kind of in his groove. So, I just wanted to see if he could field the ball getting off the mound. So, I first did that by trying to bunt it. He fielded the ball and knew what he was supposed to do, so you tipped the cap. Then, my second at-bat, he threw a fastball outside, and obviously he throws pretty hard. I swung through it and took a big swing, so I mentally knew I had to kind of shorten up my swing. Next, he threw the exact same pitch, and I just did whatever I could do with it and put it through the other way through the first and second base gaps.”