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Cannon, late inning offensive surge helps Georgia defeat Florida to clinch series
ATHENS, GA. — Georgia pitcher Jonathan Cannon continued his run of dominance from the mound on Friday against Florida.
The 6-foot-6, 218-pound right-hander threw six scoreless innings, only giving up five hits and two walks. He also struck out three in his 109-pitch out against the No. 18 Gators.
Needless to say, Cannon ended his performance in the sixth inning with some impressive theatrics.
Florida had the bases loaded with no outs, but the Georgia coaching staff decided to leave their ace in the contest. Cannon escaped the situation unharmed as his defense made some great plays behind him, including a heads-up play by third baseman Josh McAllister on a fielder’s choice where the Bulldogs got the force out at home plate. He proceeded to get the next two Gators’ hitters to fly out, which kept the score tied at 0-0.
Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin said that the strong defensive sequence in the top half of the frame gave the Bulldogs a little bit of momentum.
"I thought the key to the game was the bases-loaded, nobody out jam in the top of the sixth," Stricklin said. "Jonathan (Cannon) pitched out of it. That's the crazy thing. He didn't have his best stuff today and threw six shutout innings against one of the best offensive teams in the country. That was the turning point."
Cannon agreed with Stricklin’s sentiment.
“I’m just trying to give my team a chance to win, whatever that entails, I will do it,” Cannon said. “We didn’t have any runs and (my job) was to keep it scoreless. So, our offense got some runs in the sixth, and Jack (Gowen) did a great job of shutting them (the Gators) down.”
Georgia’s offense finally woke up in the bottom half of the sixth. Corey Collins led off the frame by taking a hit-by-pitch before a Connor Tate single moved him into scoring position. Buddy Floyd came in to pinch run for Collins as he reached third base on a fielder’s choice by McAllister.
Unfortunately, Tate was tagged out second, but the hit left runners on the corners as McAllister reached first base. Next up, Chaney Rogers executed a great sacrifice bunt and reached first base safely as Floyd scored. Parks Harber followed that up with a double to left field, scoring McAllister and Rogers. His one-out, RBI hit gave the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.
Gowen was brought in to pitch the seventh. Florida’s Mac Guscette reached first base on a single to start off the frame and Georgia’s veteran right-hander walked Colby Halter during the next at-bat. Gowen then got Jud Fabian to ground out before the Bulldogs’ defense shined yet again.
Next, Florida right-fielder Sterlin Thompson hit a routine fly ball to left field as Tate made the grab and fired the ball to third. Guscette then tried to advance to tag up and score. However, he was gunned down on a relay throw from McAllister as Bulldogs’ catcher Fernando Gonzalez adjusted and tagged him out to end the top of the seventh.
Georgia’s bats were silenced in the seventh, although they woke up in the eighth by scoring three runs, answering Wyatt Langford’s solo shot off of Gowen in the top half of the inning. Harber, Gonzalez and lead-off hitter Ben Anderson all collected RBIs in the frame. Those runs gave Georgia a 6-1 lead heading into Florida’s last chance to salvage itself.
Gowen put down the Gators with ease in the ninth inning to secure the victory. In three-full innings, hit only gave up three hits, one earned run and one walk while striking out three. Gowen was awarded his third save of the season against Florida on Friday night.
Stricklin chalked it up to the Bulldogs making plays when it mattered the most.
“The ball is being put in play and guys are making plays both left and right,” Stricklin said. “J-Mac (Josh McAllister) made two great plays at third base. A diving play to get the first force out and home and then the relay throw from Connor (Tate) to J-Mac. And then Fernando (Gonzalez) makes a great play at home plate. So, just all-around good defense, and when you throw a ton of strikes as Johnny (Jonathan Cannon) does, it’s really tough to beat (us) when we don’t give up free passes. It was a great team win.”
The two squads will square off again on Saturday for the rubber game of the series at 2 p.m.