Georgia recorded nine hits in Thursday night’s series opener against Tennessee, but it couldn’t record a single run as Tennessee used three pitchers to secure a 2-0 win over the No. 2 Bulldogs at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Left-handed pitcher Garrett Crochet got the ball for Tennessee due to Will Neely’s injury and the sophomore turned in a solid night, working around some baserunners to give Tennessee five scoreless innings.
Crochet allowed a baserunner in all five of his innings, including two baserunners in the second and third inning, but used six strikeouts to get out of some jams. The 101 pitches thrown were a new career-high for the Vols’ sophomore.
“I felt like when I had two strikes on them they battled,” Crochet said. “They hit a lot of foul balls and I just kept having to throw more and more pitches and it kinda wore me out a little bit, but I just tried to stay in there and stay composed and just keep them off balance.”
Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello echoed Crochet’s comments, while praising Georgia’s two-strike approach.
“He just fought and fought,” Vitello said. “He didn’t have great command of his off-speed and they took advantage of that with two strikes, but really Georgia’s plan against him and their two-strike hitting was pretty dang incredible.”
Georgia’s Emerson Hancock entered the game with an SEC-best ERA at 1.02. The sophomore was dominant for much of Thursday night, allowing just one hit in the first five innings as he struck out five.
“He’s incredible,” Vitello said. “He’s got stuff and pitch ability. Normally those dials don’t work together as seamlessly as they do for him, and he’s also got presence.”
Tennessee finally found some success off Hancock in the sixth inning when Ricky Martinez and Zach Daniels led off the inning with singles. Landon Gray laid down a nice bunt to advance the runners as Georgia picked up the first out of the inning.
With the infield playing in, Charleston’s grounder to shortstop couldn’t score Martinez, but Charleston got to second after Martinez got into a rundown.
Max Ferguson came up clutch for the Vols, as the freshman chopped one to first base but beat it out for the RBI single. Charleston caught the defense sleeping, as the junior speedster came all the way from second base to score a second run.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Ferguson said. “Just trying to make something happen. I hit that ball, obviously it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, but hard nineties are what we preach. Make the defense make a good play and ultimately I got there.”
Andrew Schultz came in to pitch in the sixth inning for Tennessee, throwing two scoreless innings, including one of the Vols’ two innings without allowing a baserunner.
In the seventh, Schultz walked the leadoff batter and allowed an infield hit. With two outs and two-on, Georgia’s Aaron Schunk took Schultz to the warning track, but Justin Ammons was there to record the third out of the inning.
Left-hander Redmond Walsh took Tennessee the rest of the way, throwing two scoreless frames while allowing one hit and striking out two. The save was the fifth of the year for the Vols’ sophomore.
Schultz recorded his first win of the year, and despite throwing eight innings and striking out nine batters, Hancock picked up his second loss of the season.
The shutout was Tennessee’s seventh of the season and is the most in a season since the 1994 team shutout 10 opponents.
Game two of the series is set to begin Friday night at 6:30 from Lindsey Nelson Stadium.