- Coming off a first SEC sweep of the season.
- Going into the weekend minus the top two starting pitchers in the rotation plus the leading hitter and primary closer on the team.
- The archrival is in the town.
Georgia’s baseball team had no shortage of adversity going into the weekend. The Diamond Dawgs, however, did not wilt under the pressure. Instead, Georgia further solidified its case for a national seed for the NCAA Tournament with a sweep of Florida, the first for the Bulldogs against the Gators since 2006.
Going into the weekend, Baseball America’s projection had Georgia as a No. 6 national seed. Next weekend’s opponent, Auburn, is predicted as a No. 2 seed in the regional hosted by East Carolina.
Georgia took the series opener on Friday 6-4 behind six strong innings from Tony Locey in his first career SEC series Friday start. After Saturday’s game was postponed by rain, Georgia swept Sunday’s doubleheader consisting of seven-inning contests, 9-1 an 4-1.
Now 37-12 and 16-8 in SEC play, Georgia remains second in the SEC East behind Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs play Wednesday at Jacksonville State before closing the season out next weekend at Auburn and at home against Alabama - the lowest-two ranked teams in the SEC West. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have won a combined 18 SEC games this year, two more than Georgia’s total.
The story of the weekend for Georgia was its pitching staff answering the bell when it rang with both Emerson Hancock and CJ Smith missing the series with injuries. Georgia’s injury prospects are good going into next weekend...
Emerson Hancock and Aaron Schunk will be back in action next week at Auburn per Scott Stricklin, who added that Tucker Maxwell (hamstrung) told him to go ahead and pencil him in for Friday’s first game against the Tigers.— Anthony Dasher (@AnthonyDasher1) May 5, 2019
It all started on Friday with Locey. He has been strong in his mostly Sunday role this year, but few spotlights are brighter in college baseball than getting the ball to start the series on Friday night. Locey was not rattled by the specter of the moment, giving up three runs and four hits through six innings. Ryan Webb came on for two innings, one of a pair of strong outings in the weekend as he continues to ease back in after a recent return from injury. Zac Kristofak hurled the final two innings for the save.
Georgia got going early at the plate on Friday. A Tucker Maxwell homer to lead the game off and bases-loaded grounder by Cam Shepherd made it 2-0, helping chase Florida starter Tommy Mace from the game in less than four innings.
After Florida cut the lead in half, a John Cable single and sac fly by Shepherd extended the advantage to 4-1 before Chaney Rogers padded the lead with a single.
On Sunday, Georgia’s pitching staff stepped up again, limiting the Gators to a combined two runs and five hits.
Tim Elliott didn’t need much run support with the way he pitched on Sunday, giving up one run through five innings. Still, getting a good bit of it was not an issue as the Bulldogs ripped three homers and pushed five runs across in the third inning en route to the 9-1 victory. Riley King got the the scoring started in the third when his double scored Mason Meadows in the frame that also included a two-run single by LJ Talley and two-run dinger by the hot-hitting Shepherd.
In the finale, Cole Wilcox’s complete-game effort paved the wave to a 4-1 win in his first SEC start as he fanned seven. Riley King homered in the first, and he later scored again on a John Cable grounder as Georgia led 2-0. The lead was later extended to 3-0 on a Chaney Rogers double. Like King, Rogers later scored as well, doing so on a squeeze bunt by Connor Tate.
Georgia now looks to make up ground for first in the SEC East against Vanderbilt. Sweeping Auburn and Alabama the next weekends would go a long way toward that.