ATLANTA---- On a glorious evening in Atlanta, a crowd of 18,240 at Turner Field watched as Georgia pummeled 20th-ranked Georgia Tech 17-0.
The largest crowd in college baseball this season was treated to a historic Bulldog rout of its rival. The only bigger Bulldog margin of victory in the series came in the second ever meeting in 1898, a 25-1 pounding in Athens.
The Bulldogs (16-26) grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second and never looked back, batting around three times in this the 11th annual “Spring Baseball Classic For Kids” that benefits Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Georgia tallied 23 hits while the Yellow Jackets (27-14) were held to just five. It was Georgia’s first shutout of Tech since the 2008 NCAA Athens Regional, a day they swept a doubleheader at Foley Field to advance to a Super Regional. Those Bulldogs eventually reached the College World Series Finals.
Freshmen Zach Bowers and Daniel Nichols reached on back-to-back singles in the second. Right fielder Heath Holder put down his first career sacrifice bunt. Sophomore centerfielder Justin Bryan delivered an RBI-single and second baseman Nelson Ward followed with a sacrifice fly to start the scoring. Bryan wound up tying his career-high with 4 RBI on the night.
Georgia put runners in the corners with one out in the first on singles by third baseman Curt Powell (4-for-5, 2 RBI) and left fielder Hunter Cole (4-5, 2 RBI). However, Tech escaped the jam when freshman left-hander Jonathan King struck out designated hitter Jared Walsh and on the play, a delayed double steal attempt was unsuccessful as Powell was thrown out at home.
Cole and Walsh started the third inning with base hits to chase King as Tech turned to Josh Heddinger. Bowers connected for an RBI-single. After retiring Nichols, pinch-hitter Sean McLaughlin reached on a walk to load the bases for Bryan. He smashed a two-run single and Ward followed with another sacrifice fly. Powell’s run-scoring single completed a five-run outburst as the Bulldogs extended their lead to 7-0.
Georgia senior Bryan Benzor pitched three scoreless innings in a planned staff outing and picked up the win to move his record to 3-2. He allowed two hits and struck out four before giving way to sophomore Ross Ripple. He took care of the fourth but after the first two Yellow Jackets reached to start the fifth, Georgia looked to senior Blake Dieterich. He cleaned up the frame and kept Tech off the scoreboard.
In the top of the sixth, Ward led off with a double and took third on an error by right fielder Daniel Palka. By the end of the frame, the Bulldogs had scored four runs and took an 11-0 lead. In the seventh, the Bulldog onslaught continued, adding five runs on six hits to extend their advantage to 16-0. The final run came in the ninth on an RBI-single by Powell.
After Dieterich, Georgia’s relievers included redshirt freshman Mike Mancuso, Patrick Boling and Jarrett Brown, and they all worked an inning apiece. The final regular season meeting with Tech will be May 14 in Atlanta at Russ Chandler Stadium.
“This was a lot of fun to watch in the dugout, and I’m happy for our team because they’ve hung in there and battled all season long and to do this against a great opponent in a big-time atmosphere, that’s important,” said Georgia coach David Perno. “Hopefully, this will give them some confidence heading into the weekend. Tonight, all the pitchers did a good job because they were facing a talented lineup. Even when it was 7-0, you’re not comfortable because they have the potential to get right back in it. We’ve won four of our last six, and we need to follow this up against Arkansas.”
Georgia returns to SEC action on Friday in Athens for the first of a three-game series against 14th-ranked Arkansas (27-15. 11-7 SEC). First pitch at Foley Field will be at 7 p.m.