ATHENS — Georgia baseball bats were booming on Thursday night at Vanderbilt, and the Bulldogs plan to stay locked in for Friday night’s game.
Georgia shocked the collegiate baseball world by rocking the No. 1-ranked Commodores 14-2 in Game One of the series in Nashville. The No. 23 Bulldogs aim to win Game Two at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Hawkins Field. (Stream, ESPN-plus).
“We have to be locked in,” said Connor Tate, who blasted two of Georgia’s eye-opening seven home runs against a Vanderbilt staff that led the nation in team ERA entering the night.
“Last week we won the opening day and lost the next two,” Tate said, referring to a Friday night win over then-No 8-ranked South Carolina.
“But we’re fired up, we scored 14 runs. I think that will carry over for tomorrow.”
Garrett Blaylock after second home run at Vanderbilt / SEC Network screenshot
It will be a challenge against Vanderbilt pitching ace Jack Leiter, who has given up just two earned runs in 42 innings pitched this season.
Leiter ranks No. 4 ERA in the nation with a 0.43 ERA — much of that against elite SEC competition.
Georgia will send out senior Ryan Webb, who is 4-2 with a 3.14 ERA despite getting rocked for seven runs in six innings in a loss to South Carolina last week.
The Bulldogs figure to need more run support than they had prior to Friday night’s explosive, regardless of who takes the hill.
Georgia ended Friday night’s game ranked 202nd in the nation in scoring and last in the SEC.
But as coach Scott Stricklin explained, the Bulldogs studied up for the Commodores.
“Coach (Scott) Daeley did a great job of preparing these hitters, they’ve been watching a lot of video the last 48 hours,” Stricklin said after the win. “Now, we’ve got our work cut for us tomorrow with Jack Leiter, so these guys are a really good team.
“They are the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. But sometimes you have a really good night, and we had a really good night (Thursday).”
Lost amid all of the scoring and fireworks Thursday night was how Georgia senior Garrett Blaylock, who started his career at Vanderbilt, hit two runs against his former team.
“How about Garrett Blaylock?” Said Stricklin, who plucked Blaylock out of St. Johns River State College in Palatka, Fla., after the 2019 season.
“Garrett Blaylock comes back here where he started and two hit two home runs. I know it’s special for him, it’s big time. I’m really proud of him.”
The other connection was the Tate brothers from Oconee County High School facing off against Vandy pitcher Kumar Rocker, who went to rival North Oconee High School.
Connor Tate hit two home runs, the first off Rocker, en route to a 3-for-4, 3 RBI performance, and Cole Tate was 0-for-4 with two walks and two runs scored.
“I faced him in high school and then we played travel ball together, so I’ve seen him a lot.”
“We’ve seen each other for a good bit, me and Kumar were teammates for a good bit (in travel ball), then we faced each other one or two times (as high school rivals),” Connor Tate said.
Interestingly enough, of the six UGA pitchers Stricklin used Thursday, North Oconee High School graduate Will Pearson was the winner, throwing two scoreless innings.
Georgia’s win over Vanderbilt was their first over a No. 1-ranked ream since the Bulldogs defeated a No. 1-ranked Florida team in Gainesville in 2018.
Georgia is the most recent team to take a three-game series from the Commodores, accomplishing the feat in 2019 in Athens.
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