A promising start for Georgia turned sour as No. 20 Georgia Tech rallied to beat the Bulldogs 7-5 to open the Peach State series.
Georgia led twice in the early innings but Georgia Tech picked up three runs in the fifth to permanently take the lead on Tuesday at Foley Field.
“We came out hot again,” Georgia freshman infielder Jess Posey said. “But I think we showed today that we can hit late too. I think we barreled-up the balls more late. I think our offense is heading in the right direction and I’m feeling more confident every day in it.”
The game had a back-and-forth dynamic as Georgia (12-22) took a first-inning lead, then Georgia Tech took the lead in the top of the third only to see Georgia grab a 4-2 advantage in the fourth when Brett DeLoach singled and freshman catcher Zack Bowers followed with a home run.
“I was feeling good,” Bowers said. “I was thinking fastball on a fastball count. I got a good pitch and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
But Georgia Tech struck back immediately.
Kyle Wren and Sam Dove led off the fifth with a single and double, respectively. Brandon Thomas, playing his first game after being out a month with mononucleosis, hit a 2-run double to tie the game 4-4. Zane Evans followed with an RBI single off of Ross Ripple to give Georgia Tech a 5-4 lead, and the Yellow Jackets (24-9) never looked back.
“The turning point was, you get a big two-run homer and you blink and you’re down,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “It’s tough. Ross has been so good and hopefully he’ll get back. But after this weekend, he lost a lot of confidence. … When you go out there and throw balls, balls, balls like he did this weekend, the tendency is to throw it right down the middle and that’s what he did. They took advantage of it.”
Ripple (1-1) took the loss, allowing three hits and three runs (all earned) in 1 2/3 innings of work. Georgia sent seven pitchers to the mound in the game. They combined to allow 10 hits with five walks. Georgia’s normally-solid defense helped fan the fire with three errors.
“Five walks and three errors, you’re not going to win that way,” Perno said. “You can’t turn that lineup over. They might be the best lineup in the country and we’re giving their five best hitters five at-bats. We’re not going to get them out all night. That’s not going to happen. So, you definitely can’t put them on via the walk or put them on by the errors.”
Georgia’s offense picked up some tempo with 11 hits and a run in the seventh inning that pulled the Bulldogs within 6-5. Bowers and Posey each had two hits. Curt Powell batted 3-for-5 with two runs scored.
“We changed our approach a little bit,” Posey said. “We’re trying to barrel-up balls a little more and hit the ball hard on the ground. We’re trying to get better counts and it’s really working out for us.”
Georgia Tech’s Josh Heddinger (2-0) allowed one hit and one run in 1 2/3 innings to pick up the win. Zane Evans pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his third save of the season. Evans also batted 2-for-5 with three RBIS. Brandon Thomas was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and Sam Dove was 2-for-4 with one RBI.
Georgia took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by Jared Walsh. Georgia Tech tied the game in the third with a 2-RBI double by Evans. Georgia tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the third as Hunter Cole doubled home Powell.
“It was fun to play in this game for the first time,” Bowers said. “I’ve got two of my high school buddies over there (Matt Gonzalez and Michael Hodorowski). It was pretty fun. I wish we could have had a better outcome but maybe we’ll get them the next time.”
Georgia’s Ross Ripple (1-1) took the loss out of the bullpen. Georgia Tech’s Josh Heddinger (2-0) picked up the win out of the bullpen.
Georgia (12-22) has lost 14 out of its last 18 games and has lost three straight games to Georgia Tech dating back to last season.
Game 2 of the Georgia-Georgia Tech series will be held on April 29 at Turner Field.
Notes: Posey started his consecutive straight game at second place in place of injured Nelson Ward. … Georgia Tech center fielder Brandon Thomas returned after missing a month with mononucleosis. Thomas singled in his first at-bat. … Georgia batters combined to strike out five times and hit into three double plays. Georgia Tech batters struck out five times and hit into two double plays.
— Roger Clarkson covers Georgia baseball for onlineathens.com. Follow him on Twitter.