Late game heroics lead Georgia past Lipscomb
Connor Tate (23) during a game against Gardner-Webb at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (Photo by Rob Davis)
Around 1:40 a.m. on April 19, 2019, Georgia’s Connor Tate, then a redshirt freshman, singled to center to end a 20-inning contest against Clemson, which took about six-and-a-half hours to complete.
On Sunday, in the bottom of the 12th inning, Tate hit another game-winning single to lead Georgia past Lipscomb 12-3 in a contest that lasted just over four hours.
Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin said he was envisioning that while Tate was at the plate.
“They had a big six-hole and they had him playing on the line and the shortstop was a little towards the middle,” Stricklin said. “So, I said I’ll take a three-hop ground ball in the six-hole right here envisioning Clemson. He had kind of scuffled a little bit today, and Cole (Tate) had too, but it’s really good to see those last two swings. Cole hit it right on the nose and then Connor hit that ball right on the nose as well. So, it’s good to see those guys come up big when we needed it..”.
It was another miracle from the Bishop, Georgia native as his team completed the three-game sweep of the Bison. With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 13-3 on the year while the Bison fall to an even .500 at 5-5.
With Sunday’s dramatic victory, that makes it six straight for the Bulldogs as a mid-week matchup with Wofford awaits, before Tennessee comes to Athens next weekend for the SEC opener.
“…It was tough to let it get away,” Stricklin said, “but I thought we showed a little bit of fight to hang on and win.”
Georgia redshirt sophomore pitcher Ben Harris, who pitched 1.2 innings, was awarded the win. So far this season, Harris has three victories in five appearances on the mound for the Bulldogs. On Sunday, he allowed one hit and struck out three. Georgia had a combined effort of five pitchers who took the mound in the final game of the series with sophomore Jonathan Cannon going four scoreless innings.
After the game, Stricklin spoke about Cannon’s performance.
“I thought he really good on Tuesday at Georgia Southern,” Stricklin said. “I mean he was fatigued at Georgia Southern, but he was ready to come out after the second while today he wanted to go back out and that’s a good sign. He kind of looked at me, he’s a little bit more politically correct than Ryan Webb while he just stared at me, but Jonathan gave me a little look and a please kind of look. If we didn’t have the long layoff with the umpire switch, he might have gone five because his pitch count was really low.”
Freshman Jaden Woods took over for Cannon in the fifth, who was on a limited pitch count. Woods was impressive as he led the team with five strikeouts in four innings pitched. The lefthander started the ninth but was taken out after walking two consecutive batters. Liam Sullivan was the next man up and was pitching when Lipscomb’s two runners scored, but Woods was credited with the earned runs. Junior righthander Jack Gowen was the other Bulldog who got to throw an inning in extras.
Those two runs the Bison scored in the top of the ninth were the only ones they scored all weekend. Before that, Georgia was going for the series shutout over Lipscomb, but it ended in the 27th inning of the weekend. If the Bulldogs would have done so, it would have been the first time since 1908 that a series shutout would have occurred. Still, only allowing two runs in a three-game series speaks volumes about Georgia’s young pitching staff.
Hitting-wise, redshirt junior Josh McAllister led Georgia with three hits, followed by Shane Marshall and Tate with two, respectively. Unfortunately, Connor’s brother Cole didn’t reach base today as he went 0-for-5, ending a multi-game hit streak. On a positive note, freshman Corey Collins, who had the most productive weekend of all Georgia batters, notched one hit to extend his hitting streak. Nevertheless, the late-game dramatics by Tate proved to be costly for the Bison.
With center fielder Ben Anderson on second with one out, Lipscomb pitcher Noah Thompson walked Collins to set up a double play. That brought up Tate, who singled in his previous at-bat. While at the plate, Tate towered over an inside pitch by Thompson that hit the gap between Lipscomb’s shortstop and second basemen scoring Anderson. Rounding first, Tate’s teammates mobbed him after the winning run was scored.
“It was a big win, but what goes through my mind is just to try not to get too big and just try to put the ball in play hard,” Tate said. “And when I get too big, I start pulling my head and start missing. So, I just try to focus on just trying to hit the ball hard up the middle.”
Tate said that his game-winning single was great, but it was the pitching staff who proved to be crucial down the stretch.
“Oh yeah, it’s pretty outstanding because they’re being put in some tough spots and doing their jobs. So, I mean, I hope they keep doing what they are doing,” Tate said.
Georgia will face Wofford on Tuesday, March 16 at 5 p.m. in Greenville, South Carolina.