Ole Miss’ Tim Elko stepped to the plate in the top of the eighth inning just 46 days after tearing his ACL to face Georgia’s Ben Harris, who had just entered the game. And yes, you read that correctly, tearing his ACL. With the Rebels trailing by a run, Elko launched a ball well over the trees in left field into the parking lot to tie the game at 5 runs apiece.
Just moments earlier, Georgia held a 5-1 lead and looked like they might even the series against the 13th-ranked Rebels. Elko’s home run was the second leg of back-to-back home runs. Kevin Graham hit a three-run homer before him off of Jaden Woods with runners on the corners. That helped swing the momentum to give Ole Miss an 8-5 victory in 11 innings.
“We all feel it, it should be tough to lose like that and it should hurt,” said Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin. “If it hurts that’s a good thing because you care, and they all care. It’s a heartbreaker and our kids fight… and Ole Miss has got a lot of fight in them too. That’s as tough of a loss as I’ve been apart of as a head coach.”
Before the game, Georgia officials announced that Connor Tate would be out for the series with a nagging ankle injury, and fellow senior outfielder Riley King would only be available in pinch-hit situations. That meant the Bulldogs needed players to step up. Liam Sullivan, Chaney Rogers and Ben Anderson did just that.
UGA ended up scoring three runs in the first three innings after being shut out on Thursday night. Rogers went 2-5 on the night, with an RBI single and a double, where he later came around to score. Anderson provided an important two-RBI single in the bottom of the sixth after the Rebels intentionally walked Randon Jernigan in front of him to get a lefty-on-lefty matchup.
At the time, those runs looked like insurance runs. They turned out to be the runs that kept Georgia in the game, helping to force extra innings.
Georgia received a sufficient performance from starter Liam Sullivan, who pitched 5.1 innings only giving up one run and tallied six strikeouts. Sullivan primarily pitched to contact which helped him get Rebels hitters to swing early in counts and kept his pitch count down.
Jaden Woods relieved him and pitched well for the most part. The eighth inning will stand out on Woods’ stat line though, where he gave up the three-run blast which put the Rebels back in the game. Ben Harris recovered nicely as well out of Georgia’s bullpen after giving up the home run to Elko.
Harris pitched the ninth and 10th innings flawlessly, and then Ole Miss jumped on him for three runs in the 11th with a series of tough at-bats. Fatigue might have been a factor for Harris who threw 77 pitches out of the bullpen. To add insult to injury, all three runs came with two outs.
Georgia will now look to win Saturday’s contest, which also happens to be senior day for the Bulldogs. They have not been swept yet in conference play, and will certainly look to keep that statistic alive with the selection committee watching.
“We’ve got to bounce back, we’ve done it before,” said Stricklin. “We’ve got to try to get some rest tonight, its a quick turnaround, and come out ready to play tomorrow.
Jonathan Cannon will get the start for Georgia on Saturday. The first pitch is set for 2:02 p.m. with senior day festivities commencing at 1:30.