KNOXVILLE, TENN.-----Powered by home runs from Lee County freshmen Daniel Nichols and Jess Posey, Georgia posted a thrilling 8-7 win over Tennessee Friday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Volunteers (18-26, 6-16 SEC) mounted a furious rally in the ninth, scoring four runs on three hits and four walks including two with the bases loaded, and then the game ended on attempted steal of home by Will Maddox. Tennessee had stolen home three times this year, however the Bulldogs were not to be denied on this night as they improved to 17-28 overall, 5-16 in the SEC. Tennessee batted around in the ninth and had the bases loaded with two outs when Maddox broke for home. The count was 2-2 on Taylor Smart who started the rally with a leadoff walk.
Sophomore left-hander Jarrett Brown stepped off the mound and threw home to Brett DeLoach who chased Maddox back towards third and then third baseman Curt Powell completed the run down, tagging him and ending the game.
“The team did a great job on the road and found a way to win,” said Georgia coach David Perno. “They were prepared for that situation on the steal attempt of home. It’s one thing to tell them stuff like that, we told them they are frisky on the bases, and it’s another for them to execute it when it happens. We know Tennessee is fearless on the bases regardless of the score or situation. I really liked how we hung in there against their best pitcher, he’s been really good all year, three straight complete games, a 2.88 ERA, and we got eight runs and 14 hits off him in six innings. Also, our Lee County connection came through with two big home runs.”
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the first. Sophomore Nelson Ward and Powell led off with base hits. After senior Zack Godley struck out Hunter Cole, the Bulldogs executed a double steal. Senior Kyle Farmer delivered his NCAA-leading 11th sacrifice fly. In the second, sophomore centerfielder Justin Bryan smacked a two-out double and scored on a base hit by freshman right fielder Sean McLaughlin. However, the lead was short-lived as the Volunteers responded in the bottom of the frame. Tennessee collected three hits off senior Bryan Benzor including a two-run double by designated hitter Christin Stewart to make it 2-all.
Georgia answered in the third. Cole drew a leadoff walk and with one out, Nichols crushed his second career home run to give the Bulldogs a 4-2 advantage. It was only the fourth home run allowed by Godley in 86.1 innings this season. In the bottom of the fourth, Georgia lifted Benzor in favor of junior left-hander Patrick Boling and also inserted DeLoach at catcher for freshman Zach Bowers.
In the fifth, Georgia used the long ball again to extend its advantage to 7-2. With one out, Nichols notched his second hit of the night and took third on a base hit by DeLoach. Posey smashed a three-run home run to right field off Godley. It was his second career home run. The Volunteers got a run back in the bottom of the inning on a two-out RBI-single by Scott Price to close the gap to 7-3. Georgia made it a five-run game again in the sixth as Powell notched his third hit of the game, a double, took third on a base hit by Cole and scored on another Farmer sacrifice fly.
Georgia knocked around Godley who allowed a season-high eight runs on 14 hits in six innings to fall to 4-6. He had pitched three straight complete games coming in to Friday, beating 13th-ranked Kentucky in Lexington, falling to 17th-ranked Ole Miss and a 4-2 victory over Florida in Gainesville last Sunday.
Tennessee missed a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the sixth, putting runners at second and third with nobody out. However, Boling came back to strike out Smart. Then, McLaughlin made a diving catch on a sinking line drive from pinch-hitter Jeff Mosberg and Peirce Bily grounded out.
Boling (3-6) picked up the win, going five innings and allowing four runs on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Brown pitched the ninth for his second save.
Georgia was without one of its top players in two-way standout and cleanup hitter Jared Walsh. The sophomore flew home to Georgia Friday morning to be with his ailing father.
The series continues Saturday with first pitch slated for 7 p.m., and it will be televised by CSS.