‘Clean Old Fashioned Hate’ rivalry renews in baseball

ATHENS – The latest installment of the “Clean Old Fashioned Hate” rivalry renews this weekend as Georgia and Georgia Tech meet on the baseball diamond on three consecutive days at three venues.

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The No. 19-ranked Yellow Jackets (8-1) host the first game at 6 p.m. Friday at Russ Chandler Park. Georgia’s Foley Field will be the backdrop for Saturday’s 2 p.m. game. Then Coolray Field in Lawrenceville – home of the Gwinnett Stripers – will provide the arena for Sunday’s competition. As always, the neutral-site game will serve as the 19th annual Spring Classic For Kids game. Proceeds from ticket sales will go toward funding critical patient and family initiatives in the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

The two on-campus games are sold out, but tickets remain for the game at Coolray Field.

Other than aesthetics, it really doesn’t matter where these two squads gather. The competition always is going to be intense in this series and meaningful to both sides.

“It’s going to be a real challenge,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “It’s a legitimate top-20 matchup between archrivals at three different venues. So, it’s setting up to be a great weekend.”

Depending on which baseball poll one ascribes, it’s could even be described as top-10 matchup. Georgia is No. 5 and Tech No. 10 in the Collegiate Baseball poll. Baseball America, one of the nation’s most respected baseball services, has them Nos. 14 and 19, respectively.

The Bulldogs will send right-hander Jonathan Cannon to the mound Friday, and that’s generally a good thing for Georgia. Cannon hasn’t allowed a run and has given up just five hits in 14 1/3 innings while striking out nine with no walks. The 6-foot-6 junior barely missed a perfect game in his most recent outing, against Akron.

Tech will counter with junior right-hander Chance Huff (1-0, 2.45 ERA). UGA left-hander Liam Sullivan (1-0, 5.14) is scheduled to go against sophomore righty Zach Maxwell (1-0, 3.00) on Saturday. Right-hander Dylan Ross (1-0, 3.00) is Georgia’s normal Sunday starter, but both the Bulldogs and Tech are waiting to see who’s available.

“They’re very good and talented and a lot of certainly high-draft-pick pitchers that we’ll see and a definite veteran team on the field,” Tech coach Danny Hall told the AJC’s Ken Sugiura. “I just think that we realize that we’ve got to play good baseball and whatever shortcomings we have, they’ll have a chance to get exposed.”

Neither squad has faced the level of competition it will this weekend, though Tech’s slate would appear to be the most formidable of the two. The Yellow Jackets lost to Georgia Southern 10-6 on Feb. 22 in Statesboro and won at Georgia State 4-2 last week. The Bulldogs’ toughest outing so far was against Wofford in Greenville, S.C., and they had to push a final-inning run across to win that one 7-6.

“It’s nice to be 8-0, and we’ve talked to our team about that,” Stricklin said. “Winning, at the end of the day, is the most important thing, finding a way to win. You don’t get style points for wins and losses. You just want to make sure you have more runs than the other team when it’s over, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.”

That will be Georgia’s goal again this weekend. In records dating to 1898, Georgia leads the all-time series 215-166-2. Tech won both campus meetings last year, 7-5 in Athens, 7-6 in 14 innings in Atlanta. There was no neutral-site game because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bulldogs swept the series in 2020. In the Spring Baseball Classic, Georgia holds a 12-6 edge, including 1-0 at Coolray Field.

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