Athens, GA - Daniel Nichols’ grand slam powered Georgia past seventh-ranked South Carolina 5-3 Sunday at Foley Field, for the Bulldogs’ first series win over the Gamecocks since sweeping them in 2008.
The Bulldogs (23-23-1, 9-14-1 SEC) won their first series against a top-ten team since 2011 when they took two out of three against ninth-ranked LSU. The last time Georgia won a series over a team that was ranked seven or higher was in 2009 when they defeated fifth-ranked Arkansas.
“We’re fighting for our postseason lives, and this was a big, big series win for us,” said Georgia coach Scott Stricklin. “We came in to this series on an eight-game losing streak including getting swept by a couple of really good baseball teams in Florida and Vanderbilt, and we weren’t playing too well either. However, we’ve got some confidence now and there’s plenty of baseball left to play.”
Leading 1-0, Nichols’ third inning grand slam gave Georgia enough cushion to hold off South Carolina (35-13, 13-11 SEC) The grand slam was Nichols’ career first, and with the shot he also picked up a career high 4 RBIs. Additionally, he posted a second inning double and scored a run. Junior Hunter Cole shined as well for the Georgia offense with a three-for-three day including a walk and a run.
“After Nichols hit it, we just watched it keep going and going and when it went out, there were a lot of happy guys in our dugout,” Stricklin added. “Daniel had a big game today for us. Also, we played good defense and the pitching was great from David Sosebee, Heath Holder and Jared Cheek.”
Sosebee picked up his first win of the season as he improved his record to 1-3, while pitching a career high six innings. Sosebee allowed only two runs on four hits and two walks he also had four strikeouts. Holder and Cheek both appeared in relief for the Bulldogs; Holder threw 1.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts, while Cheek went 1.1 innings to secure his first careers save as a Bulldog.
South Carolina starter Wil Crowe was handed the loss, dropping his record to 6-3 on the campaign. Crowe lasted three innings, giving up five runs on four hits and two walks. A combined effort from Reed Scott, Josh Reagan, and Taylor Widener out of the Gamecock bullpen held Georgia scoreless through the final six innings.
Georgia struck first as Nichols led off the second with a double that skidded past South Carolina first baseman Kyle Martin and into the right field corner. Nichols then was moved to third on a groundout to second by Sean McLaughlin and was able to score the first run of the game on another fielder’s choice groundout to second by Brandon Stephens.
In the third, Georgia’s Nichols widened the gap to five with his first career grand slam. Bell lead off the inning with a single, and after two outs, Crowe surrendered back to back walks, loading the bases for Nichols, who then crushed the ball to the batter’s eye in dead center as Tanner English nearly made a highlight catch at the wall.
South Carolina opened the sixth with consecutive singles and then a walk to load the bases with no outs. After Sosebee struck out Joey Pankake, he nearly got Martin to hit into a double play, but Martin beat the throw by a step scoring the Gamecocks’ first run. Next, Grayson Greiner hit a sharp grounder to third, which Cole smothered, but he was unable to throw Greiner out at first, closing the gap to three.
In the eighth Holder got into a small jam. After getting the first two outs, he walked a pair of batters. Cheek came in and he got out of the inning with a deep Greiner fly out. USC added a run in the ninth as Conor Welton made a huge diving catch in left field for the second out in the frame. Gene Cone’s groundout to second secured the series –clinching win for the Bulldogs.
Up next, Georgia will play host to Savannah State on Wednesday May 7th at 6 p.m., and then it will head back on the road to face SEC Western Division leader 10th-ranked Ole Miss in Oxford starting Friday.