Good pitching, clutch hitting and a competitive ballgame kept a sellout crowd at Foley Field engaged on a frigid night as No. 4-ranked Georgia held off Georgia Tech 6-5 Friday.
All six of the Bulldogs’ runs came with two outs.
“You need clutch hits to make it happen,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “A couple of times we had nobody on and two outs and were able to come through. The inning’s never over ‘til it’s over.”
Emerson Hancock (2-0) got the win for Georgia (9-1) and Ryan Webb earned the save in 3-1/3 gritty innings of relief that included five hits and four strikeouts but only one run.
“Our team did a great job of battling all night,” said Webb, a junior left-hander. “For me, personally, I just love being in when the game’s on the line.”
Senior Jonathan Hughes (2-1) took the loss for the Yellow Jackets (7-2).
Georgia’s Tucker Bradley continued his torrid start to the season with a 3-for-4 night that included a three-run home run. Tech shortstop Luke Waddell also had three hits.
It was the first of a three-game series between the rival teams. They’ll play in Atlanta at Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m. and on Sunday at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.
It’s the first time in 61 years the teams have played a regular-season, weekend series.
There was plenty of drama to be had in the opening game. The game ended with Webb striking out Tech senior Jackson Webb with runners on first and second in the top of the ninth.
That was the second-biggest moment in the inning. The biggest came with Colin Hall tried to take third base when Georgia catcher Shane Marshall dropped a pitch at home plate. Marshall found the ball quickly and threw out Hall at third base for the inning’s first out.
That proved big as the Jackets followed with two infield hits. Stephen Reid brought one run home with a line-drive flyout to deep center field.
“I think we can play better,” Tech coach Danny Hall said. “I think, again, we made it too easy for them to score. We had a chance to get out of the five-run inning. All six of their runs came on two-out hits and two-out hits will win ball games. Felt like we left some guys on.”
Indeed, the Yellow Jackets left 11 runners on base. Georgia had 10.
Ryan Webb, who relieved Hancock in the sixth, also got out of a jam in the eighth inning. Waddell, who had a double among his two hits at that point, came to bat with runners on first and second. Webb got him to strike out on some high heat.
“He found a way,” Stricklin said of Webb. “He competes more than anybody I’ve ever had and that’s the guy we want with the ball at the end of the game.”
Waddell broke up what had been a perfect game for Hancock with a leadoff double in the top of the fourth inning. The Jackets would eventually load the bases on two walks, the second one intentional, and took a 1-0 lead on freshman Drew Compton’s soft single to left field. But Hancock pitched his way out of it, striking out designated hitter Stephen Reid and getting Jackson Webb to ground out to second.
That action seemed to wake up the Bulldogs’ bats. Four singles spurred a two-out rally that culminated with Bradley’s three-run homer to right-center field and a 5-1 Georgia lead.
Tech got a run back on Michael Guldberg’s single to left in the fifth but again left two runners stranded.
The Jackets finally knocked out Hancock in the sixth inning, but not before the heralded right-hander had recorded his 10th strikeout. He gave four runs on eight hits and two walks, one of them intentional. The junior improved to 2-0.
Hancock’s last run came from the first batter that Ryan Webb faced. Tech immediately got another RBI hit from Waddell. But a great relay from first baseman Chaney Rogers to Webb covering the mound from first barely beat Colin Hall to end the Jackets’ threat.
Some more clutch hitting got the Bulldogs another run in the seventh. Patrick Sullivan, pinch-hitting for catcher Mason Meadows, scored Cole Tate on a single for a two-run cushion.
“That was a huge one,” Stricklin said of Sullivan’s clutch hit. “There’s a fifth-year senior who wasn’t starting in a really big game. He could have hung his head, but he was ready the entire game for that opportunity and he got it.”
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