Photo Credit: UGA Baseball
Peach State baseball fans were treated to Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate on the baseball diamond this weekend for the first non-midweek series between Georgia and Georgia Tech in 61 years. After three sell-outs at Foley Field in Athens, Russ Chandler Stadium in Midtown, and Coolray Field in Gwinnett, the Dawgs claimed state bragging rights as they swept the Yellow Jackets behind powerful arms and clutch at-bats.
What does this weekend mean for the Dawgs?
Georgia showed this weekend that their biggest strength will be their powerful pitching pair of Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox, however, Georgia is showing pitching depth that didn’t exist in the Athens Regional last May. Ryan Webb was able to contain a pesky Jackets squad on Friday night, Justin Glover had no problem in disposing of Tech in 2 innings on Saturday, and newcomer Jonathan Cannon was able to squash the Tech rally on Sunday. Georgia’s SEC schedule is going to be harder this year than last’s, as there are trips to Florida, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, and Arkansas, so showing some clutch pitching performances before conference play ramps up can only help the Dawgs going further.
This weekend proved once again that Georgia has two stud arms, and nothing is going to change that. Although we have yet to seen both Emerson and Wilcox look really dominant in the same weekend, they have shown that they’re going to be a tough outing for any opponent. Georgia Tech had no answer for Wilcox on Saturday, as the Jackets were struck out 11 times by Wilcox.
On the offensive side for Georgia, Tucker Bradley has continued his hot start on the season, highlighted by his 3-run shot in the 4th inning on Friday that proved to be the difference. The top of the order has been producing and must continue to produce well for Georgia to win series in the SEC, especially on the road. Leadoff hitter Ben Anderson has shown a knack for getting on base, as seen from his two doubles on Sunday, and Cam Shepherd is dangerous in the 3-hole, as shown from his 9th inning grand slam on Saturday. Despite the tough start, Riley King has been fighting hard at the plate and the bottom of the order has seen flashes with Chaney Rogers, Buddy Floyd, and Cole Tate. Georgia ruined two Hancock gems last year against Vandy and LSU due to no run support, so if the bats can be consistent, Georgia is a favorite to win the SEC.
The bottom line for Georgia is that they are good, but the ceiling still can go much higher. Georgia has three midweek games with an always pesky Georgia Southern team the next two weeks in Athens, Augusta, and Statesboro, and UMass next weekend, but the opening SEC series in Gainesville in two weeks looms large for SEC East supremacy.
What does this weekend mean for the Yellow Jackets?
Although no team wants to get swept to your in-state rival, Georgia Tech was several plays away from a win in Athens on Friday and was able to get to CJ Smith in the 5th inning on Sunday. The Jackets were scrappy on Friday night, scoring 4 runs on Hancock and could have been an error before Bradley’s shot and a bad read after a lead-off double in the 9th from making the result different. However, not being competitive on Saturday and allowing Georgia to pull away on Sunday sure can be demoralizing for a young team.
Speaking of that, the name of the game with Tech is youth, both at the plate and on the mound. However, the youth of Tech have shown flashes of being on the cusp of a breakthrough, as seen through their sweep of Ohio State last weekend. Georgia Tech outhit Georgia 13-7 on Friday night, and the freshmen duo from New Jersey of Drew Compton and Stephen Reid have shown power that could send a lot of balls out at Russ Chandler this year. Although he was roughed up by Georgia on Saturday, freshmen pitcher Zach Maxwell has also looked good so far.
Georgia Tech has plenty of leadership to balance the youth, as senior pitcher Jonathan Hughes is more than capable to win Friday night games in the ACC, and Luke Waddell, Jackson Webb, and reigning ACC batting average champion Michael Guldberg are veterans that can overwhelm plenty of pitchers in conference play. A bright spot from the weekend was Luke Bartnicki, who shut out the Dawgs’ bats on Saturday in relief and currently boasts a 0.87 ERA.
Tech’s ACC schedule starts off on Friday against Virginia Tech, but then takes a turn as the next 5 series are against 2019 tournament teams- Florida State, Duke, Clemson, UNC, and NC State. Those five weeks will determine a lot about who Georgia Tech is and if their youth is ready for the big stage. Tech will look to get back to their winning ways with a mid-week double dip against Tennessee Tech and cross-town foe Georgia State.