Mercer rolled into the Athens Regional with a wave of momentum.
Georgia, however, turned that surge into a mere ripple with the pitching of Tony Locey and hitting from up and down the batting order. It all added up to a 13-3 win for the Bulldogs on Friday night at Foley Field after Georgia led 8-0 in the first inning on the heels of an Aaron Schunk three-run homer and Tucker Maxwell grand slam.
“Coach talked to us before the game and really all week about trying to come out and be yourself, about not trying to do too much,” Maxwell said. “He told us if we were just ourselves everything would work out.”
Now 45-15, the Bulldogs face Florida State at 7 pm on Saturday with Mercer and Florida Atlantic playing at 1 pm in the loser’s bracket game.
Playing in front of a full house, Georgia took control early starting with Locey as he struck out the side. Then, Georgia got to work, leading 3-0 on one of Schunk’s two homers, helping to chase Mercer starter Tanner Hall, a high school teammate of Locey’s at Houston County from the game in two thirds of an inning
Tucker Maxwell poured gas on Georgia’s fiery start, ripping a grand slam. Needless to say, Maxwell had a big night with three hits and tied a career best with six RBIs. LJ Talley also had three hits. Maxwell extended Georgia’s lead to 10-0 in the third on a two-run single and Schunk’s second dinger in the fourth inning made it 13-0 as Georgia wore down Mercer’s pitchers.
“Man, it was a tough environment. Georgia is as good as their national seed. [Tony] Locey was outstanding tonight — probably one of the best arms we’ve seen all year,” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. “He was dominant from the first pitch. Man, it’s a great club. That’s a fun club to watch up there. It’s tough to be on the other side of it but man, they’re good.”
The Bears used six pitchers. Georgia? Just three. Locey gave up no runs and three hits in five innings with Logan Moody and Darren Pasqua pitching two innings each to close the win out.
In fact, Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin pointed to Locey’s start as a trigger for the big win.
“I thought Tony Locey set the tone tonight in the first inning. He gave up the leadoff single with a lot of emotion in the opening game of a regional. He certainly knows a lot of those guys and a lot of those guys know him,” Stricklin said. “A lot of emotion going on with Tony, pitching against his high school teammate, Tanner [Hall]. I know Tony has an emotional side to him and I thought he was really focused. Struck out the side and gave us momentum going into the dugout before we scored those eight runs.”
Baton Rouge Regional
In the region whose winner will face that of the victor in Athens, LSU beat Stony Brook 17-3 on Friday and Southern Miss topped Arizona State 15-3.