Georgia baseball showed up and showed out in the Music City, drumming No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt by a 14-2 count on Thursday.
The Bulldogs blasted seven home runs off the nation’s top pitching staff, including four deep shots in the ninth inning for the fans who remained at Hawkins Stadium.
“We played about as good as you could play,” UGA coach Scott Stricklin said on the 960 The Ref postgame show. “Everybody stepped up and did their jobs.”
The teams meet again for Game 2 of the three-game set at 7:30 p.m. on Friday (SEC Network-Plus).
The No. 23-ranked Bulldogs (19-10, 4-6) jumped on the Commodores (24-4, 8-2) from the onset, taking a 3-0 lead on Corey Collins’ three-run homer off Vanderbilt starter Kumar Rocker (7-1) in the first inning.
Former Oconee High School star Connor Tate was 3-for-4 hitting at the plate, including a double and two home runs. Tate’s first homer was off Rocker, a former high school rival and travel ball teammate.
“We came out fired up, we were ready to go,” Tate said. “We were ready to swing the bats and our pitchers pitched really well.”
Rocker, who attended North Oconee High School near Athens, gave up three home runs in five innings pitched. Rocker entered the game with a 0.84 ERA. He had given up just two home runs his previous 157 2/3 innings.
The Georgia win snapped the Commodores’ nine-game win streak. UGA also served notice for everyone watching in Nashville and on the SEC Network that coach Scott Stricklin’s young Bulldogs can hold their own in the ultra-competitive SEC.
“They had the machine guns, we had the squirt guns,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin told Adam Sparks of The Tennessean newspaper. “It was pretty obvious. They swung the bat well. We swung it like (manure). The score was indicative of what the two teams looked like.”
It’s the second week in a row Georgia has taken down a Top 10 team, beating No. 8 South Carolina at home last Friday. That Bulldogs’ win snapped what was a six-game Gamecocks’ win streak.
Vanderbilt answered Georgia’s quick start Thursday with a run in the bottom half of the first inning off UGA freshman starter Luke Wagner.
But Georgia — the last SEC team to win a series against Vanderbilt, back in 2019 — struck for three more runs in the sixth inning and tagged on another three in the seventh.
Tate and Garrett Blaylock homered in the sixth inning, Blaylock’s a two-run shot. Two more UGA runs came across the plate in the seventh, aided by an error and wild pitch making it 9-1.
The Bulldogs’ bullpen kept the top-hitting SEC team in check most all night.
“Luke Wagner gave us what we needed, we just needed to shut things down, and then we knew we were going to go to the bullpen,” Stricklin said. “That was the same formula for last Friday when we beat South Carolina.”
Stricklin turned to Will Pearson, Michael Polk and Collin Caldwell to keep the Commodores from adding any runs through the sixth inning.
Nolan Crisp came on in the seventh and surrendered two hits and a run — off a balk — before Ben Harris finished off the inning and the game without any more damage.
“It’s great to see that from Benny Harris, it’s a little bit of a roller coaster with Benny, and he’ll make you a little nervous sometimes,” Stricklin said. “But man, it’s an explosive fastball, and for him to finish things up like that, that was pretty big.”
Pearson, a freshman from North Oconee High School who pitched two scoreless innings, was credited with the win, now 2-0.
“Willy P did a good job,” Stricklin said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he gave us two scoreless (innings), and just did a great job.
“A guy from North Oconee got the win tonight, and I’m glad it was our guy.”
Georgia pitchers stranded an astounding 15 Vanderbilt batters. The two runs were the fewest scored by Vanderbilt in SEC action this season.
The Georgia offense, which entered Thursday last in the SEC in scoring and 13th in home runs (26 in 28 games, and 6 in the previous 9 SEC games), slammed the door shut with the four-home run ninth.
Tate, Riley King, Blaylock and Ben Anderson all hit solo home runs in the final inning.
UGA’s seven home runs were one short of the school record for most in one game.
The Bulldogs’ 14 runs were the most Vanderbilt surrendered since Auburn beat the Commodores 14-0 in 2018.