Georgia baseball veteran Garrett Blaylock set the tone the way a senior is supposed to on Sunday, delivering a three-run home run in the top of the first inning that paved the way for the Bulldogs’ 6-1 victory.
Cole Tate and Josh McAllister delivered back-to-back one-out singles to set the table for Blaylock’s eighth home run of the year.
The 3-0 lead enabled UGA sophomore pitcher Jonathan Cannon to take aim at No. 7-ranked Florida with confidence in the SEC Network televised game at Florida Ballpark.
Even after the Gators chomped back for a run in the bottom of the second, Georgia’s Chaney Rogers pushed the margin back to three by leading off the second inning with his fourth home run of the season.
Cannon (3-2) allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings of work, scattering six hits and four walks while fanning four as the Bulldogs (29-20, 12-15 SEC) beat the Gators (35-16, 17-10) for the fifth time in the teams’ past seven meetings.
Collin Chadwell came on in relief with two outs in the sixth and runners on first and second to work out of the inning before Georgia coach Scott Stricklin emptied the bullpen to lock down the win and avoid the sweep.
Michael Polk, Will Pearson, Luke Wagner and Ben Harris combined to throw three innings of shutout baseball, Stricklin’s game management reminding everyone why new AD Josh Brooks extended his contract a month ago.
Indeed, Georgia won on a day where clean-up hitter Connor Tate and a reliable senior Riley King were late scratches from the lineup.
“It was about an hour before game time and Connor Tate can’t go and Riley was out, too,” Stricklin said. “Connor tried to go during BP (batting practice) and just couldn’t quite do it. He took a pitch to the back of the leg last night, and it’s really painful for him.
“It’s just the next man up, and we had a lot of guys come in and play well today. This was a really good team win for us.”
The Bulldogs had their backs to the wall, trying to avoid getting swept in an SEC series for what would have been the first time this season.
“Jonathan (Cannon) was really big for us,” Stricklin said, praising the sophomore from Centennial High School.
“We needed a quality start. The bullpen has been stressed out the last few weeks.”
The Georgia baseball fans have been stressed out, too; the Bulldogs had lost six of seven before delivering the clutch win on Sunday in Gainesville.
It’s a Georgia team with pitchers out and players injured, but like football, UGA has the benefit of tremendous high school programs in-state and has built expectations with recent success.
The Bulldogs look to even the score against ACC foe Georgia Tech at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in Atlanta. The Yellowjackets stung Georgia by a 7-5 count on April 27 in Athens.
RELATED: Georgia Tech trips up Georgia in a midweek game in Athens
Stricklin will walk the fine line associated with mid-week games when it comes to his bullpen, being mindful to keep the Bulldogs set up for a regular-season ending series with Ole Miss in Athens.
Georgia moved a game up on Kentucky for fifth-place in the SEC East Division with Sunday’s win.