If you’re a college baseball fan in the state of Georgia, this past weekend was great.
If you’re a Georgia fan, it was even greater.
To start with, kudos to both Georgia Athletics Director Greg McGarity and his Tech counterpart Todd Stansbury. Thanks in large part to them, the three games between Georgia and Tech sandwiched between conference series in mid-week contests were replaced by this weekend’s three-game series.
With each team not yet in conference play, more focus was on the series itself and both sides also got to showcase the best of their pitching staff.
The stage was set, and Georgia delivered in a big way, sweeping all three games, starting 6-5 Friday in Athens, 12-0 on Saturday in Atlanta and 9-3 on Sunday at Coolray Field.
Oh, and Ben Anderson may have helped his case toward DGD status.
Dawgs sweep Georgia Tech: “We didn’t want to have them feel like they were any better than us or give them any hope, so we took it to them all three games. We showed them that we’re the best team in the state." - Ben Anderson https://t.co/LrKbTD91ij— Anthony Dasher (@AnthonyDasher1) March 1, 2020
Overall, it’s Georgia’s best start since the 2009 team began 14-0.
The bigger story is two-fold. One, that this very talented Georgia team, ranked fourth, had a chance to show how could it was in a top-20 matchup and delivered in a big way.
The other story is Scott Stricklin rewarding the patience of Greg McGarity. Through his first four years in Athens, it’s very fair to say expectations were not met with a losing record each year and no NCAA postseason berths. That ship has since been righted with two national seeds being won in as many years in Athens, and the win over the Yellow Jackets follows up on that built-up momentum.
Emerson Hancock’s 10 strikeouts through 5 and two thirds of an inning and Ryan Webb coming out of the bullpen along with a five-run fourth was all that Georgia needed on Friday as Webb snuffed out a Tech rally in the ninth to end the game with the based loaded. Ben Anderson and Cam Shepherd ripped back-to-back singles to move Georgia in front 2-1, and Tucker Bradley’s three-run blast extended the lead to 5-1.
Georgia inched ahead to begin Saturday on Patrick Sullivan’s squeeze bunt in the second and Bradley’s homer an inning later. That was more than the Dawgs required due to the way that Cole Wilcox was pitching. He fanned 11, retiring 14 in a row through seven innings. Georgia blew it wide open with an eight-run ninth. Shepherd’s two hits and four RBIs led overall at the plate, but the performance was also strong up and down the lineup with each starter in the lineup having at least one hit.
Another early edge set the table again Sunday, a 4-1 edge that was extended in the sixth on an Anderson double and Bradley single.
Jonathan Cannon, who relieved CJ Smith following 4.1 innings of giving up three runs on three hits, turned in another very good showing, giving up only three hits the rest of the way.
In five appearances, a combined 11.1 innings, he has given up no runs and four hits. That’s pitching depth that’s paying off early for Georgia and could be bigger in the postseason.
Another in-state battle is next for the Diamond Dawgs as the host Georgia Southern on Tuesday before Wednesday’s game between the two at SRP Park in North Augusta.