Baseball: Bulldogs beat down the Commodores with the long ball
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Georgia catcher Corey Collins (6) during a game against Evansville at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Feb. 21, 2021. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith)
The Georgia baseball team did something remarkable on Thursday night, which was blast seven home runs off of four Vanderbilt pitchers.
Following a three-game losing skid and facing the No. 1-ranked Commodores, the Bulldogs’ offense exploded in a 14-2 win in Nashville. The outcome of Thursday night’s contest was something that not many expected, especially with Vanderbilt ace and Athens-area native Kumar Rocker on the mound.
Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin was impressed.
“Coach (Scott) Daeley did a great job of preparing these hitters,” he said during his postgame press conference. “They’ve been watching a lot of video over the last 48 hours…These guys are a really good team, the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. Sometimes you have a really good night, and we had a really good night tonight. How about Garrett Blaylock?
He comes back to Vanderbilt where he started his career and to hit two home runs, I know it’s special for him. I’m really proud of him. Connor Tate, Ben Anderson, Corey Collins hit home runs too. Overall, we played about as good as you can play. We played great defense too.”
Blaylock and Tate both went yard twice, while Anderson, Collins and King each hit one, respectively. During the ninth inning, Tate, Blaylock and King hit back-to-back-to-back dingers in a five-run final inning effort. According to Anthony Dasher of UGASports.com, Georgia’s seven home runs was just one shy of the school’s single-game record. In 1986, the Bulldogs hit eight home runs in a game versus Georgia College.
The Bulldogs hit three home runs off of Rocker, who is regarded as one of the nation’s top pitching prospects. Last season, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound hurler was a First Team Preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball, D1Baseball and Perfect Game. As a freshman, Rocker posted a 3.25 ERA in 99.2 innings pitched with 114 strikeouts.
Tate, who played against Rocker in high school at rival Oconee County High, said the team was ready to play on Thursday.
“We were ready to go,” Tate told 960 The Ref. “We had a little three-game losing streak, and we came out fired up, ready to swing the bat.”
Coming in, Rocker boasted a 0.84 on the season with 61 strikeouts in just 43 innings on the mound. Before last night’s contest, he had only allowed two home runs in 157.2 innings pitched, according to Dasher. Georgia had three long balls off him on Thursday night.
Tate said he was very familiar with his counterpart.
“I’d faced him in high school at North Oconee, and we played travel ball together,” Tate said. “I’ve seen him a lot.”
Georgia used six pitchers on Thursday, but it was freshman Will Pearson who got the win. Pearson, a former teammate of Rocker’s at North Oconee, threw two scoreless innings, while only allowing two hits.
“Willy P did a good job,” Stricklin said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he gave us two scoreless (innings), and just did a great job.
Georgia (19-10, 4-6) will face another tough Vanderbilt (24-4, 8-2) pitcher in Jack Leiter on Friday night.
“…We’ve got our work cut out for us in Jack Leiter,” Stricklin said.
Regardless, the eighth-year head coach was proud of his team responded after a three-game drought.
“We played about as good as you could play,” Stricklin said. “Everybody stepped up and did their jobs.”