The No. 20 Georgia Bulldogs outlasted Kentucky 8-7 Saturday at Foley Field to even a Southeastern Conference series.
The Bulldogs (22-12, 6-8 SEC) won an entertaining affair, getting a career-high 4.1 innings from Ben Harris (3-0) out of the bullpen and a career-high four RBI from freshman catcher Corey Collins to force a rubber game in this series. The Wildcats (22-10, 7-7 SEC) did not go quietly, scoring a pair of runs in the ninth, and Bulldog freshman Jaden Woods registered the final out for his first career save.
Georgia jumped in front 3-0 on a three-run blast by Collins. Josh McAllister and Cole Tate were on base following a leadoff single and a hit by pitch. It was the sixth home run for Collins who extended his hitting streak to a career-best eight games. Kentucky got a run back in the second when Oraj Anu connected for his sixth home run. After the home run by Collins, Kentucky right-hander Sean Harney retired the next eight Bulldogs including six via the strikeout. Collins snapped the streak with a two-out single in the third. In the fourth, Kentucky senior T.J. Collett made it a one-run game when he smacked his 10th home run. Senior Garrett Blaylock put the Bulldogs in front 4-2 when he led off the bottom of the fourth with his seventh home run, this one off the batter’s eye in centerfield.
The Wildcats chased starter Jonathan Cannon in the fifth with four straight hits including a game-tying two-run single by Chase Estep. The fourth hit fell in right field as the Bulldogs lost it in the night sky. With two on and one out, Georgia looked to Harris. He retired Collett on a pop out and then struck out John Rhodes to keep it a tie game. In the bottom of the fifth, Ben Anderson led off with a double to left and McAllister moved him to third with a groundout to the right side. Harney picked up his ninth strikeout and then Kentucky went to the bullpen for left-hander Cole Daniels who struck out Collins.
Connor Tate and Blaylock singled to start the bottom of the sixth and then Riley King delivered a two-strike, RBI-single to put Georgia back in front 5-4. Kentucky brought in Daniel Harper to face pinch-hitter Luke Wagner. He moved both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Then, pinch-hitter Chaney Rogers made it 6-4 with a sacrifice fly. In the seventh, McAllister led off with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Tate and scored on a sacrifice fly from Collins, giving him a career-tying four RBI on the night. The Wildcats made it 7-5 with a two-out, run-scoring single from Jacob Plastiak and on the play, Ben Anderson fired a strike to Blaylock to retire Anu trying to advance to third. Georgia executed a safety squeeze bunt to push across its final run as Blaylock launched a double to center and pinch-runner Buddy Floyd eventually scored on Wagner’s sacrifice for an 8-5 lead. Austin Schultz hit a two-out, two-run home run to make it 8-7.
The series wraps up with a rubber game Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 1:02 p.m. ET and will be available on SEC Network+ and can be heard on the Georgia Bulldog Sports Network.
Georgia’s Ike Cousins Head Baseball Coach Scott Stricklin
On Ben Harris’ contributions especially late in games…
“”To be honest with you, an unexpected boost. We know how talented he is; our players have seen it for the last two years. He was here last year and wasn’t able to play because of the transfer rule, and it’s a shame the transfer rule has changed but he had to sit out a whole year and we saw how talented he is, even as a hitter. We didn’t know on the mound necessarily what we were going to get, but now that the lights are on, I think we are seeing just how competitive he is. When the lights go on, man he has been so good, especially in the league. What he did at Vanderbilt last week, what he did here. At Texas A&M he pitched his rear off and got us to the ninth so he’s been awfully good. He’s been a really huge boost to our team to have him on the back end of our bullpen.”
Ben Harris, Junior, RHP
On maintaining energy and momentum…
“I guess with that, that’s really something where you’ve got to come in and do the job for the team and to do that you have to be under control and know what you need to do, so a lot of that is really kind of staying out of the big, big moment and taking deep breaths. Just trusting in what you have worked on. Our guys did a great job of setting that up and getting us there and I was just able to come in and hopefully do what I trained to do.”
Riley King, Graduate,LF
On his approach at the plate whether it’s bunting or hitting
“Just going up there trying to help the team win in whatever way I can. Obviously, bunting, it happened so just step in there in compete-mode and good things worked out.”