Georgia Bulldogs ace Emerson Hancock (2-0) had another outstanding performance as the Georgia Bulldogs (12-2) defeated the UMass Minutemen 5-0 on Friday night at Foley Field in a pitcher’s duel.
The Cairo native looked solid through the first three innings allowing zero runs on two hits and striking out four. In the third, the Minutemen had runners on first and second with two outs. Clean-up hitter Connor Smith was up to bat, but Hancock picked off Steve Luttazi at second for the final out to escape the jam.
With Hancock pitching so well, the Georgia offense looked stagnant until the bottom of the fourth inning. Junior Tucker Bradley got a one-out single, and during the at-bat, Garrett Blaylock got his third double of the season driving Bradley to third.
Minutemen starting pitcher Sean Harney was able to put away Chaney Rogers for the second out but walked Kaden Fowler to load the bases. Harney was able to get Bulldogs’ first basemen Patrick Sullivan to fly out to deep center ending the inning.
Hancock remained flawless into the fifth as he retired the first three batters he faced in the previous inning. Pearson was able to reach base on an error by Blaylock, but Hancock held his own by mowing down Luttazi for the second out, and picking up his seventh strikeout. Another key play by the Bulldogs on defense led to the end of the inning for the Minutemen as catcher Shane Marshall gunned down Pearsons in an attempt to steal second.
Center fielder Ben Anderson had a two-out hit in the fifth, and that brought up Cam Shepherd. Shepherd was battling with Harney, but Anderson was caught trying to steal second leading to the final out of the inning.
In the top of the sixth, Hancock remained poised picking up the first out on an unassisted groundout to Sullivan. He managed to strike out Kessinger, but Kessinger was able to reach first on a wild pitch. The momentum shifted back Georgia’s way the next at-bat as Marshall threw out Kessinger in an attempt to steal second, and Hancock striking out Videtto for the final out on the very next pitch.
With Kessinger being thrown at second, that was the third baserunning mistake of the night for the Minutemen.
“I felt like early on I didn’t have the command I wanted to, but Shane (Marshall) helped me out with the big throws,” said Hancock. “He threw those two runners out to kill momentum. So, credit to him, and I just kinda feel like I settled in a little bit more as the game went on.”
With one out in the top of the eighth, junior left-hander Ryan Webb (2-0) came in to relieve Hancock of his starting duties. Hancock lasted 7 ⅓ innings only giving up three hits as he tied his career-high strikeouts with 12. He also didn’t give up any walks and kept the Minutemen scoreless.
“You’ve just got to keep doing your job. You have to keep making pitches. You have got to keep executing, and let the defense play behind you,” said Hancock. “That’s kind of the mindset. For me, I feel like if I can get the first batter out of every inning – it kind of kills momentum, and you just have to go from there.”
After Hancock’s exit, the Minutemen were able to load the bases putting Webb in a bind. In a long battle with Videtto, Webb was finally able to put him away in a 2-2 count for the last out.
Anderson led off the bottom of the eighth with a single and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Up next, Cam Shepherd hit into a groundout that scored Anderson to put Georgia in the driver’s seat, 1-0. Shepherd advanced to second base on an error, then to third on a wild pitch. That was all for Minutemen starting pitcher Sean Harney before Tucker Bradley came up to bat.
Bradley drew a walk and then advanced to second on a wild pitch, moving Shepherd to third. Pinch-hitting for Blaylock, junior Riley King took a hit-by-pitch to load the bases. Connor Tate‘s single scored Shepherd to extend Georgia’s lead to 2-0 with no outs. A pair of consecutive singles by Patrick Sullivan and Mason Meadows drove in three more runs to put Georgia up, 5-0.
“It took us a while to get going, and it’s always good to win,” said Anderson. “But we all know that we need to be a lot better. We didn’t really play well on Tuesday, and today we came out kind of flat. Just not playing with a lot of confidence. We need to be a lot better and come ready to go tomorrow.”
With a comfortable lead heading into the ninth, Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin decided to let freshman right-hander Michael Polk close out the game. Polk ended the game getting the save, and retiring the Minutemen 1-2-3.
“Sean Harney was really good tonight, and he out-competed us,” said Stricklin. “That’s what I am really disappointed with. I don’t think our hitters competed very well tonight, and Harney competed for them. He made it tough on us and made it on some 3-2 breaking balls. He threw his fastball in-and-out.
“He did a nice job, but we’ve got to be better offensively than that. We’ve got to be better defensively. Emerson (Hancock) probably throws a complete game if we make two routine plays, and catch a strike three. Because of that, he had to throw 10 to 12 extra pitches, and we’ve got to take him out of the game. So we’ve got to better defensively, and we’ve got to be better offensively”
Game two of the series tomorrow will start at 2 p.m.
Things to know…
…With Bradley’s single in the fourth inning, that extends his streak of reaching base safely in all 14 games this season.
…Anderson’s single extended his hitting streak to nine games, which is a career-high. With the hit, Anderson has also successfully reached base safely in 12 of 14 games.
…With Hancock’s 12 strikeouts, that is the sixth time in his Bulldogs’ career that his K total has reached double-digits. It’s the second time in a week as he struck out 10 last week against Georgia Tech.
Here is the video from Scott Stricklin’s interview: