Georgia uses big ninth to secure clinching win over Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech first baseman Drew Compton and Georgia's Cole Tate meet in a close play at first base in Georgia's 12-0 victory at Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 29, 2020. (Photo  by Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)
Georgia Tech first baseman Drew Compton and Georgia's Cole Tate meet in a close play at first base in Georgia's 12-0 victory at Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 29, 2020. (Photo by Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

In the first three-game weekend series in 61 years of Georgia-Georgia Tech baseball, Bulldogs sophomore Cole Wilcox left his imprint on the rivalry’s latest chapter.

Wilcox pitched seven shutout innings en route to Georgia’s 12-0 victory on Saturday afternoon at Russ Chandler Stadium. He was in complete control as he utilized his fastball, which has been clocked at 100 mph, to baffle Tech hitters with 11 strikeouts.

“I was able to command the fastball, and everything starts off that,” Wilcox said. “If you aren’t commanding the fastball, there is nothing you can do. I was able to get in the zone with that and work it in and out to have the slider and change-up go with it.”

Tech managed two base runners in the first inning, but Wilcox rebounded to retire 20 of the next 23 batters faced. During the stretch, Wilcox sat down 14 consecutive Yellow Jackets, including eight of 10 batters via strikeouts.

Overall, Wilcox threw 67 of his 95 total pitches for strikes. He surrendered three hits and didn’t issue a walk.

Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said it was Wilcox’s best start for the Bulldogs. He praised his young starter after the game.

“That’s as good as I’ve seen him,” Stricklin said. “He had all three pitches working for strikes. He was throwing inside and outside with his fastball. It was at 95-96 mph. He was just really tough to contend with today.”

Wilcox’s masterful performance was fueled by a patient Bulldogs lineup. This season, the team has embraced a small-ball approach that has manufactured runs.

In the second inning, the Bulldogs took an early lead behind two bunt singles. Junior Cole Tate led off with a double and scored on Shane Marshall’s RBI single.

Later, the Bulldogs took advantage of four walks and two hit batters to score eight runs in the ninth inning. Senior Cam Shepherd provided the major blow with his second-career grand slam landing over the left-field wall.

“We are trying to put as much pressure on defenses as we can with our pitching and defense,” Stricklin said. “We are trying to score one run at a time if we can.”

Shepard finished 2-for-6 with four RBIs. He provided the offensive load alongside junior Tucker Bradley, who hit his SEC-leading sixth home run.

“Every time we made a mistake, where it’s making an error or making a bad pitch, they have made us pay,” Tech coach Danny Hall said.

Tech sophomore Cort Roedig kept the Yellow Jackets in the game early. He pitched 4-2/3 innings and limited the Bulldogs in spurts.

He struck out eight batters and avoided damage through three innings. However, a costly error by Austin Wilhite allowed Georgia to score two runs in the fifth inning. The Bulldogs chased Roedig after he allowed an RBI double to junior Garrett Blaylock.

“I honestly thought that Roedig threw it OK,” Hall said. “It was still a 4-0 game going into the last inning. You like to think you got a chance to make a run at them somewhere. We just didn’t do it.”

The Jackets had their chances at the plate.

In the sixth inning, the Jackets had an opportunity to cut into the deficit with runners on second and third base. With the top of the lineup lurking, they squandered a chance to climb back from an early hole.

Wilcox worked to strike out junior Collin Hall and got Baron Radcliff to ground out to end the threat.

“We had plenty of opportunities with our guys we would like to see at the plate,” Hall said. … “We just haven’t put enough balls in play.”

The missed chances trickled down to the bullpen, as they struggled to hold the Bulldogs late. The unit issued seven walks that Georgia parlayed into eight runs.

Three bases-loaded walks resulted in three runs. They also set up Shephard’s grand slam that sealed Tech’s fate.

“It’s kind of been the story of the last two days,” Hall said. “Our situational hitting has not been what it needs to be. We just haven’t made enough plays or enough pitches to get them out.”

Georgia improved to 10-1 with the victory in front of 3,718 fans. The Bulldogs, who won 6-5 on Friday in Athens, clinched the series and look to earn a series sweep Sunday afternoon at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.

Tech hopes to salvage a game and build momentum heading into the rest of the season.

“We got to treat it like it’s another game and go out and take care of business,” Shepherd said.