ATHENS, Ga. (release) -- Tennessee jumped ahead 5-1 after three innings but couldn’t hold on as No. 19 Georgia scored nine unanswered runs, including five in the fourth inning alone, to claim a 10-5 victory and clinch the series over the Volunteers on Saturday afternoon at Foley Field.
“I was very proud of how we came out and put some runs on the board early,” UT head coach Dave Serrano said. “It seemed like it was going our way and then all of a sudden they start throwing some body blows and we didn’t know how to respond to that. I hate losing, but I can take a loss. But when they put up a five-spot, we never responded to that.
“It’s a baseball game of nine innings. We may lose some innings along the way and obviously have throughout our season so far. But we aren’t responding. We aren’t responding like (Georgia) responded. They were down 5-1 in their home ballpark with a good crowd and they responded to it. They made us pay for some pitches up in the zone and they were aggressive. We become more passive.
“You saw a tale of two teams today. You saw a team that came out aggressive early when things were going well and then as soon as things started going bad we became passive. Those are things that, as a coaching staff, we are searching for the answers to and we will find the answer.”
Junior righthander Zack Godley (3-1) suffered his first loss of the season after allowing a season-high seven runs on 10 hits in four-plus innings of work. Drew Steckenrider came out of the bullpen to yield just one run and strike out two in two frames, but it wasn’t enough as just four Vols reached base over the final six innings of the contest.
Chase Hawkins (2-0) picked up the win for Georgia with 2.2 scoreless innings in relief. He combined with Jay Swinford and Blake Deiterich to hold UT off the board and allow just five hits over the final 6.2 innings of the contest.
Davis Morgan posted his second multi-hit contest of the series, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, while Wes Walker added two hits as well with a single and a double. Morgan is now hitting .458 over his last nine games with 11 hits in his last 24 at-bats.
The Bulldogs pounded out 18 hits in the contest, the most allowed by the Big Orange this season. UT, meanwhile, had 10 hits, including five off of UGA starter Pete Nagel in the first 2.1 innings of the game. Tennessee scored five runs off of Nagel, who entered the contest having allowed just three earned runs all season.
The Vols had leadoff singles in each of the first three innings, taking full advantage all three times en route to racing out to a 5-1 lead. Will Maddox got the ball rolling for UT with a leadoff single in the first. After moving to second, he promptly swiped third before trotting home as the throw bounced into left field.
In the second inning, Steckenrider led off the frame with a single through the right side. A pair of groundouts advanced him to third and Jake Rowland brought him home with his first career hit, a single to center.
Although Georgia’s Colby May cut the UT lead in half with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, Tennessee responded three-fold in the third. Once again, it was a leadoff single that got things started as Chris Pierce pulled a line drive to left. After moving to second on a groundout, he stole third as Jared Allen drew a walk. A balk by Nagel then allowed Pierce to score, while Allen moved to third after taking second on a wild pitch.
Tennessee added two more in the frame on a safety squeeze by Chris Fritts and a perfectly executed two-out, two-strike hit-and-run by Morgan who punched a single to center to bring in Steckenrider from second.
The Bulldogs weren’t going to go down without a fight though as they rattled off five runs, including three with two outs, in the bottom of the fourth to regain the lead 6-5. Hunter Cole struck the big blow with a two-run home run, while UGA also got RBI singles from Brandon Stephens and Levi Hyams, as well as a run-scoring double by Curt Powell.
Georgia pushed its lead to two with a run in the fifth on a single by May. UT escaped further damage, however, as Steckenrider was able to tag a runner out at the plate as he tried to score on a wild pitch before a weak line drive ended the frame.
Georgia finished off the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the seventh and a two-run home run by Levi Hyams in the eighth.
The loss drops UT’s record to 10-8 on the season while the Bulldogs improve to 15-5. The two teams will square off in the series finale at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
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