The Georgia Bulldogs baseball team started the 2020 season off in dramatic fashion as Randon Jernigan scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth off a Cole Tate single to center field.
The Bulldogs were led off the bat of Tate as the junior went 4-for-5 in his first career start.
“Well I made sure I wasn’t for real stressed out because this was my first real start” said Tate. “I just went up to the plate, had confidence, and swung the bat. When I was on deck I was watching the pitcher and saw he was throwing a lot of sliders. So, I decided to sit slider and I got one in the middle, up, then got a good swing on it.”
Tate wasn’t the only Bulldog that had a great night as relief pitcher Ryan Webb finished with a career-high 11 strikeouts in five innings pitched. Webb only gave up three hits and one walk in the 19 batters he faced.
“Whatever helps the team win is what I will do,” said Webb. “I can’t full credit though. Cole Tate – he’s played great all spring. He’s really good on the defensive side of the ball. He’s been playing great the past weeks and he carried that into today.”
It was the Diamond Dogs that struck first in the bottom of the first inning as Ben Anderson scored on a Tucker Bradley single.
Bulldogs’ starting pitcher Emerson Hancock got off to a hot start allowing one hit in the first two innings while striking out two. In the top of the second, Hancock went 1-2-3 as he struck out the last batter looking. In the bottom of the second, batting in the No. 9 spot, Cole Tate smashed a ball into left-center field traveling out of the park. It was his first career home run in his sixth career start as he added onto the Georgia lead, 2-0.
Richmond finally got on the board in the top half of the third scoring three runs on three hits as they took a 3-2 lead. In the bottom half of the third, second basemen Cam Shepherd led off the inning with a double but was not able to score.
In the top of the fourth, Spiders’ infielder Peyton Sanderson singled to center field and scored on Johnny Hipsman’s home run. The very next batter Dominic Toso homered to almost that exact same spot extending the lead to 6-2. The jam continued for Hancock as Drew Bleckley and Anthony Forte singled in consecutive at bats, but they were left on base as Jordan Schulefand struck out swinging. Hancock headed into the bottom of the fourth rattled as he had four strikeouts, one walk, giving up six runs in 23 batters faced.
Connor Tate started off the bottom of the fourth taking a hit-by-pitch and advanced to second on a steal that was upheld by the review booth. Senior Patrick Sullivan advanced to first on a walk, and three batters later Anderson drew a full-count walk loading the bases. The Spiders switched pitchers to DH Alden Mathes as he came in relief, and he struck out Cam Shepherd looking on a hittable off-speed pitch.
Lefty Ryan Webb took over the mound in relief for Hancock in the top of the fifth and escaped the inning unscathed as he left two Spiders runners stranded. Tucker Bradley started off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a Riley King sac fly. Garrett Blaylock singled driving in Bradley to cut the lead to three.
The Diamond Dogs started chipping away at the lead in the bottom of the sixth as Anderson scored on a Tucker Bradley suicide squeeze. On the mound, through three innings, Ryan Webb held the Spiders scoreless picking up his seventh strikeout ending the top of the seventh.
In the bottom of the seventh, Connor Tate and freshman Buddy Floyd got on base with walks. Cole Tate singled driving in his brother, but Floyd was tagged out a third on a sloppy base-running mistake. The Spiders’ lead was cut to one heading into the eighth, 6-5. The Bulldogs were able to hold off Spiders’ batter in the bottom half of the inning as Webb picked up two more strikeouts.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth, Georgia trailed 6-5. In the top of half of the ninth, Webb stranded two runners and picked up his eleventh strikeout. Garrett Blaylock led off the inning and battled a full count until the seventh pitch of the bat when he homered to right-center. Sullivan followed with a single with one out, and Randon Jernigan came into pinch-run. He reached second and scored the game-winning run on a Cole Tate single.
“They (Richmond) did a good job against Emerson (Hancock). They rattled him a bit, but it was good to see Clay (Webb) come in and pitch so strong,” said head coach Scott Stricklin. “That was the best outing we’ve seen him have in a Bulldog uniform, for sure. We really missed him last because he injured his elbow. He’s going to be a really high draft pick, and it’s going to be nice to seem him come in relief after Emerson or Cole.“
Georgia advances to 1-0 on the season and will face Richmond in game two of the three-game serious on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. ET.