ATHENS – Vanderbilt did just enough to take Game One of a pivotal SEC division series against Georgia baseball.
The No. 22-ranked Bulldogs (31-15, 12-10 SEC) traded blows in a lengthy game of catchup but could never overtake the Commodores (30-14, 11-11) on a cool, clear Friday night at Foley Field. The teams will battle in Game Two at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Athens (TV: SEC Network+).
“Guys are ticked off,” Stricklin said. “They’re kind of angry, angry that we let that one slip away.
“Hopefully, we can throw a punch back tomorrow.”
UGA will play its ace, Jonathan Cannon, on Saturday. The highly touted righthander’s 2.04 ERA is second in the SEC.
Cannon has been nothing short of dominant so far this season, landing him on the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list, an award given to the top amateur player in the country. The 6-foot-6 junior is second in the country with a 0.72 WHIP is tied for second in the nation.
“The key was we scored and every time we got momentum, we just couldn’t stop them,” UGA coach Scott Stricklin said. “If you’re going to win games, you’ve got to stop the other team’s momentum.
“When you’re in a slugfest, you’ve got to throw big punches and we threw some good punches today, but the big punch we didn’t throw.”
Georgia’s best chance to take the lead came in the bottom of the eighth. Trailing 10-9, Parks Harber hit a routine grounder to Vanderbilt shortstop Carter Young. Young mishandled what could have been an inning-ending double play to put runners on the corners with one out.
Chaney Rogers then loaded the bases with a four pitch walk as the cheers of 3,217 Bulldog faithful filled Foley.
Cole Wagner struck out in four pitches, bringing Corey Collins to the dish with loaded bases, two outs, and a one-run deficit. The slugger DH saw eight pitches before skying the third out into right field.
UGA was retired in order in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Georgia scored in every inning except for the first, eighth, and ninth.
Georgia, the No. 2 team in the SEC East, now has just a one-game lead on No. 3 Vanderbilt. Both teams are vying for a top four finish in the conference, competing for the last two spots with No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 19 Auburn, and No. 20 LSU.
UGA threw righthanders, lefthanders, different velocities and arm slots, but could not pin their division foes. The Commodores seemed to stay one step ahead of the Bulldogs from the moment they scored the game’s first run in the second inning.
Vanderbilt’s Enrique Bradfield Jr. wreaked havoc, hitting 4 for 5 with a walk, an RBI, three stolen bases, and four runs. The speedy leadoff man also advanced on several botched pickoff attempts.
“The biggest key was Bradfield getting on base five times,” Stricklin said. “That’s the key to beating them is first off, keeping him off base.”
It was an up and down night for starter Nolan Crisp. The junior tossed a career-high nine strikeouts but gave up four earned runs in as many innings.
Michael Polk was the first man out of the bullpen. He surrendered five hits and two walks for four earned runs of his own in two innings.
In their first weekend with a completely healthy starting pitching staff since SEC play started, the Bulldogs suffered a big loss to their bullpen. Luke Wagner, who relieved Polk in the seventh, exited the game holding his arm after diving forward for a popup bunt.