Earlier in the season, Ryan Webb talked about the importance of taking over the “ace” role on the Georgia pitching staff. It has not been the smoothest year for Webb, who has struggled with his command at times and had lost his last two SEC starts. Webb brought his best stuff on Thursday night though in Georgia’s 4-0 win over Auburn.
Webb effectively kept his pitch count down, only throwing 63 pitches through six innings. His command was also on point as he did not allow a walk. That was also essential considering the amount of walks Georgia gave up as a staff in its loss to Georgia Tech on Tuesday. Webb also struck out six batters, improving his team lead in strikeouts.
“I felt really good out there tonight,” said Webb. “My changeup was really really good and I felt like my fastball command has been the best it’s been in the last month.”
Georgia (27-14, 10-9) also won the first game of an SEC series for the first time since a win at Vanderbilt on April 8. Even though Georgia has won its last two series, the Bulldogs lost the opening game of their series’ against Kentucky and Missouri.
All of Georgia’s runs came on one swing of the bat from catcher Fernando Gonzalez in the sixth inning. Georgia first got two runners on, forcing Auburn to pull starter Jack Owen from the game. Following another walk, Gonzalez lined a ball off of his bat over the right field fence, which marked the Bulldogs’ first grand slam of the season.
Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin said he “almost overthought” himself by nearly pulling Gonzalez from that at-bat in favor of Garrett Spikes. Stricklin attributed that to Auburn reliever Mason Barnett being tougher on right-handed hitters. Luckily for Georgia, Stricklin stuck with Gonzalez because the Bulldogs did not score again on the night.
In Gonzalez’s next plate appearance he heard an increased cheer from the crowd, which he took note of.
“It was awesome, I heard it,” said Gonzalez. “Being a freshman, first year here, it was awesome to hear that. I was not expecting it.”
It was a bit confusing that Georgia pulled Ryan Webb after pitching so well while keeping his pitch count down. However, Stricklin said that Webb’s back tightened up a bit and they did not want to risk his health with the length of the bottom of the sixth inning. Webb improved to 3-3 on the season with the win.
Georgia then turned to reliever Ben Harris, who pitched the last three innings to secure the win for the Bulldogs. Harris has arguably been Georgia’s best reliever this season, with a team-best 1.55 ERA. Harris only allowed one hit and recorded four strikeouts.
The Bulldogs will now carry the momentum from Thursday night’s game into a Friday night matchup at 7 p.m. Jonathan Cannon will be Georgia’s starting pitcher, going against Auburn’s feisty offense of “free swingers,” as Ryan Webb described.