The seventh-ranked University of Georgia baseball team became only the third squad in school history to register 40 wins in the regular season Thursday night, defeating Alabama 9-4 in game one of an SEC series at Foley Field.
The Bulldogs (40-14 overall, 19-9 SEC) got six innings from freshman Cole
Wilcox and the offense provided 15 hits, the most in an SEC game this season, for the win as the Crimson Tide fell to 30-24 overall, 7-21 SEC). Wilcox is now 3-1 on the year while Alabama starter Tyler Ras fell to 1-3 after allowing four runs on five hits in 2.2 innings.
After a scoreless first inning for both teams, a home run to leftfield by junior Cam Shepherd in the bottom of the second inning put Georgia on the board first. The homer marked Shepherd’s sixth of the season, with five of them coming in the last nine games. He went on to finish 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and two RBI. In the third, Alabama got a run back but Georgia responded with three more in the bottom of the frame to extend its lead to 4-1.
After a scoreless fourth inning, Alabama’s Kobe Morris homered to right-center to make it a two-run game. The Crimson Tide made it a one-run ball game in the sixth, but Georgia answered again. Pinch-hitter sophomore Connor Tate delivered a two-run double to make it 6-3. Alabama got another solo home run, this time from Tyler Gentry, his 11th of the year. The Bulldogs came right back to plate three in the bottom of the eighth for a 9-4 lead.
Aaron Schunk finished 2-for-5 with two RBI to give him a 10-game hitting streak while Patrick Sullivan matched his career-high with another three-hit game. Junior Zac Kristofak provided two innings of relief after Wilcox and junior Justin Glover took care of the ninth including a pair of two strikeouts.
- Cam Shepherd smashed his sixth home run of the season, five of which have come in the last nine games.
- Aaron Schunk upped his hitting streak to 10 games in the bottom of the third inning
- Patrick Sullivan recorded a three-hit performance, tying his career high. This is his second three-hit game in the last three contests.
- Cole Wilcox matches his career high with seven strikeouts in six innings
-Georgia's 15 hits was the most in an SEC game this season
-The 2019 Bulldogs now join Georgia's 1990 national champions and the 2001 SEC Champions to notch at least 40 victories in the regular season.
-With the win, Georgia clinched a top four seed in next week's SEC Tournament and a first round bye.
Ike Cousins Head Baseball Coach Scott Stricklin
On Freshman RHP Cole Wilcox's performance…
"Well, he certainly set the tone in the first couple of innings—six up, six down. I thought that his fast ball hit 97, his breaking-ball was really good early. He kind of lost it there in the fourth and fifth, but got it back in the sixth. That's a really good sign to see him scuffle a little with this command and find it again. That is a sign of a really good pitcher."
On Junior SS Cam Shepherd's swinging the bat well…
"The last ten games he's swung it really well, and you could argue he is our best player. You know offensively he's fought himself a little this year and we have had such a great year with him playing defensively and now he has started to heat up at the right time. So, he is a really good player and we have a lot of players around him, so it's really encouraging to see him swinging and a lot of other guys too."
On the Bulldogs notching their 40th win of the season…
"Well, it is pretty special. It is the third time in school history that we have done it in the regular season—to win 40 games. It is pretty hard to do. You can look around the country and very few teams have been able to do that. We play only 56 [games] and everybody is good in college baseball now. There is so much talent in college baseball, and for us to get 40 wins is pretty special and we still have two games to play. So, we need to finish this out. We will scoreboard-watch a little. We're allowed to do that now with Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and we are going to have fun this weekend. We're going to be loose and easy. We have a chance to win a series tomorrow and that's what our goal is every weekend. We will worry about Saturday when it gets here."
Player Perspective…Cole Wilcox
On improving during the season...
"The Florida game was easier because I had all my stuff working. It was fun. Tonight, I didn't have my stuff. I thought it may have even been some of my worst stuff of the year, honestly, and I just had to battle through it. That's something at the beginning of the year I probably wouldn't been able to do, is battle through, if I had bad stuff. Luckily, I matured a little bit, and I was able to get through it."
On the importance of winning the first game in this series…
"It was huge. I mean, we know what's in front of us. We know what we got to do in this series. Obviously, we want to win. We wanted to come out tonight and get the first one."
Georgia will play host to Alabama Friday at 7 p.m. (SEC Network+).
University of Georgia junior Aaron Schunk has been named a semifinalist for the 2019 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award, the College Baseball Foundation announced Thursday.
A finalist for the Olerud Award in 2018, Schunk leads the seventh-ranked Bulldogs in batting at .339 with nine home runs and 37 RBI plus has a team-high 11 saves to with a 1-2 mark and 2.53 ERA. Georgia is 39-14 overall and 18-9 in the SEC.
The Olerud award is named for the former Washington State University standout who achieved success both as a first baseman and left-handed pitcher during the late 1980s and was inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. The award will be presented by the College Baseball Foundation later this summer.
"Every year we've done this award, the quality of candidates just seems to get deeper and deeper, and this year is no different," award chairman George Watson said. "We've got dominating starters, shutdown closers and every single one of these guys is putting up great numbers at the plate. Each player is having a tremendous effect on their respective teams' push for the postseason."
In related news involving Schunk Thursday, he was named to the SEC Community Service Team for baseball.
Here's a look at the 10 Olerud Award semifinalists for this season.
Name (School) AVG-HR-RBI; W-L, ERA, SV
Ty Adcock (Elon) .249-10-48; 4-1, 2.63 ERA, 8 SV
Alec Burleson (ECU) .373-6-45; 5-1, 3.30 ERA, 4 SV
Cade Cavalli (OU) .319-17-44; 5-2, 2.93 ERA, 0 SV
Tristin English (GT) .322-15-57; 2-0, 4.66 ERA, SV
Connor Grammes (Xavier) .327-6-23; 4-5, 4.60 ERA, 0 SV
Will Matthiesen (Stanford) .327-9-41; 5-2, 4.29 ERA, 1 SV
Max Meyer (Minnesota) .256-1-12; 4-3, 2.28 ERA, 2 SV
Aaron Schunk (Georgia) .339-9-37; 1-2, 2.53 ERA, 11 SV
Davis Sharpe (Clemson) .270-3-18; 6-3, 2.85 ERA 0 SV
Chris Wright (Bryant) .307-6-48; 1-1, 2.88 ERA, 12 SV
Previous winners of the Olerud Award include Mike McGee (2010-FSU); Danny Hultzen (2011-Virginia), Brian Johnson (2012-Florida), Marco Gonzales (2013-Gonzaga), A.J. Reed (2014-Kentucky), Brendan McKay (2015-17-Louisville) and Brooks Wilson (2018-Stetson).