Few things on a college campus accelerate interest in the rites of springtime than a less than pleasing Selection Sunday.
Seeing as Crean’s Hoop Hounds are a bit of time away from being relevant in March, interest shifts to springtime in Athens giving excitement to go along with spring football practice and the glory that is UGA’s North Campus in April.
Down toward the south end of campus at Foley Field, Scott Stricklin’s eighth-ranked Diamond Dawgs (18-2, 3-0 SEC) are sending notice, so far, that last year’s run may not have been a fluke. Georgia has now won nine in a row.
As expected, there were initial doubters about this team given a less than rigorous non-conference schedule, something that’s all a wash anyway once SEC play starts. Those questions? They were laid to rest over the weekend in Columbia, SC with a three-game sweep of top-25 ranked South Carolina to open conference play, Georgia’s first 3-0 SEC start since 2007 and first road sweep of a ranked SEC team since 2004.
Overall, the weekend was all Georgia could ask for to begin conference play as LSU comes to town for the SEC opener next weekend.
It all started on Friday night with Emerson Hancock doing as he has done lately - dominate on the mound. In seven innings, he set a career high with 12 strikeouts, more than enough for a 6-1 win. Georgia blew things open with a four-run sixth inning, its 14th inning with at least that many runs in a frame this season. The big hit came via Aaron Schunk’s two-run triple followed by a Mason Meadows sacrifice fly and two-run double by Patrick Sullivan. John Cable shined in his SEC debut, his two-run homer in the second getting the Dawgs on the board.
A night after holding the Gamecocks to a run, Georgia had to dig deep for grit and determination to win a wild 8-7 contest to clinch the weekend series, coming from behind three times to get the win. Among those rallies? A four-run rally in fourth inning to come back from being down 5-1. Tucker Maxwell got the offense going with an RBI, followed by a two-run hit by Riley King that was followed by a Schunk sacrifice fly.
Down 6-5, Georgia came back again on an RBI double by Chaney Rogers and groundout by Maxwell before Mason Meadows made it 8-6 through six innings.
That was enough of a cushion for Georgia’s bullpen as it cooled off the USC bats over the final few innings as Will Proctor got the win in 1.1 innings along with Cole Wilcox hurling 2.2 innings prior to Zac Kristofak facing two batters before Schunk, pitching 1.2 innings, got the save.
Sunday, it was Tony Locey’s turn for a strong starting pitching performance. Even though he didn’t get the win, he held USC to one run and struck out a career-high 11 batters. He gave way to Zac Kristofak, who kept Georgia in place to rally in the ninth after being held to a hit through eight innings.
Meadows started things with a double, and John Cable tied things with a single. Tucker Maxwell then smashed a three-run homer for the decisive margin.
Now, with LSU in town next weekend, Foley Field all of a sudden becomes one of the biggest series to watch in the early part of conference play.