ATHENS----No. 23 Tennessee rode a five-run outburst to a 5-3 victory over Georgia Thursday at Foley Field in the “SEC Game of the Week” televised on ESPNU in front of 2,459 fans.
The Bulldogs (19-14-1, 5-7-1 SEC) were outhit 11-5 on the evening as Tennessee’s Nick Williams (4-3) pitched five innings, giving up three runs (one earned), on four hits, two walks and five strikeouts. Georgia’s Jared Cheek (5-4) picked up the loss after lasting 4.1 innings, allowing five runs on 10 hits, a walk and a strikeout. It was the junior’s first career start, despite leading the team with five wins on the season.
“They (Tennessee) played good defense tonight and we got off to a slow start offensively,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “That being said Ross Ripple came in and kept us in the game, only giving up one hit in 4.2 innings and we ended up getting the tying run up to the plate in the ninth. That’s all you can ask for when you are down 5-0. I’m proud of our guys. Ripple saved our bullpen tonight going forward.”
Cheek was able to escape trouble in the first two innings, highlighted by leftfielder Conor Welton throwing out the Volunteers’ David Houser at the plate to end the second innings. But Tennessee (23-9, 6-7 SEC) was finally able to break through with five runs in the third after five straight hits to start the inning, led by Christen Stewart’s two-run double.
The Bulldogs got on the board with three runs in the bottom of the fifth (two unearned) after a throwing error by Williams. Georgia junior Hunter Cole added an RBI single to give him 21 on the season, good for second on the team behind shortstop Nelson Ward (23).
Ripple came on in relief for Cheek in the fifth and notched career highs in both strikeouts (six) and innings pitched (4.2). He did not allow a run, allowing only one hit and two walks in finishing the game for the Bulldogs. Tennessee’s Andy Cox relieved Williams in the sixth and did not allow a run over three innings, allowing only one hit and one walk and posting two strikeouts. Andrew Lee held Georgia scoreless in the bottom of the ninth to get a save.
The Bulldogs saw several streaks come to an end. Welton’s team high seven-game hitting streak was snapped, along with Ward’s five-game span. Mike Bell also failed to reach base, ending his streak of six straight games.
Georgia and Tennessee square off in game two of the series on Friday at 7 p.m. at Foley Field. Please note that Saturday’s 4 p.m. game is a sellout. However, a limited number of free seats are available in the right field bleachers for the final game of the series.