HOOVER, Ala.-----Alabama eliminated 24th ranked Georgia 5-3 Tuesday in the opening round of the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met.
“Well, I thought the game was won and lost in the first two innings,” said Georgia’s Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin. “We get off to a slow start and -- that’s what I said to the team in right field before we started was it’s 9:30 in the morning, who’s going to start, who’s going to come out of the gate ready to play, and next thing you know it’s 5-0 really quick. After then that I thought Jaden Woods did a great job of settling the game down, gave us a chance. This guy to my right (Parks Harber) got a big hit and gave us a run. We were able to scratch another two runs on an infield hit and a home run. It’s 5-3.
“So as poorly as I felt like we were playing, we’re still in the baseball game,” Stricklin added. “And I thought Ben Hess for them did a great job of kind of shutting us down. Really, really good stuff. I thought (Brock) Guffey was really good, and obviously Dylan Ray, bullpen is very, very accomplished. Bottom line we got beat. We got outplayed. It’s disappointing, but I know we’ve got more to play for, and we’re going to rest up, get healthy and get ready for next week.”
Alabama (30-25) built an early 5-0 lead, scoring three runs in the first and two in the second to chase sophomore left-hander Luke Wagner. Sophomore first baseman Park Harber got the Bulldogs on the board by blasting his team-leading 12th home run of the year, a solo shot in the second, to cut the deficit to 5-1.
Alabama ace right-hander Garrett McMillan pitched the first two innings and then the game went into a two hour and six-minute rain delay. When play resumed in the bottom of the third, freshman right-hander Ben Hess was the new Tide hurler while Georgia looked to sophomore Jaden Woods in relief of freshman Chandler Marsh. Hess shut down the Bulldogs, retiring the first 13 batters he faced including a stretch of seven consecutive strikeouts before Harber lined a one-out single in the seventh. After Chaney Rogers drew a walk, Hess was lifted in favor of Brock Guffey. Following a groundout by Fernando Gonzalez, the Bulldogs had a pair of runners in scoring position for Cory Acton. He worked a full count before being called out on strikes.
Hess, who struck out a career-high 10 in 4.1 innings, improved to 3-1 while Wagner dropped to 5-2. Woods provided four scoreless innings of relief and tied his career high with seven strikeouts. Senior right-hander Jack Gowen took care of the final two frames for the Bulldogs with two strikeouts.
Georgia graduate shortstop Cole Tate notched a single in the eighth to extend his hitting streak to eight games. Then his twin, graduate left fielder Connor Tate, smashed a two-run home run to centerfield to make it 5-3. It was his 12th home run, which ties Harber for the team lead. In the ninth, Alabama brought in closer Dylan Ray for the ninth, and he notched his seventh save.
Georgia (35-21) now will tune in at noon on Memorial Day when the NCAA Championships field of 64 will be announced on ESPN2. The Bulldogs are projected to be in the regional field and will learn their destination and seed during the selection show.
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