Georgia’s bats finally came to life. But redshirt freshman pitcher Mike Mancuso’s play on a sacrifice bunt attempt might have saved the night for the Bulldogs.
Georgia turned back a late rally to beat Missouri 6-5 on Saturday at Foley Field. On his very first batter after coming into the game in the seventh, Mancuso threw a runner out at third on a sacrifice attempt stymied the Tigers’ momentum.
“Coach (David) Perno, the first thing he said to me when I came out on the mound was to be ready for the bunt,” Mancuso said. “I knew I had to throw it in the zone. I threw a pitch a little bit in on the hands so he was able to bunt it to me, instead of to third and I was able to get the key out at third.”
Missouri had rallied for three runs in the sixth off of Ross Ripple to pull within 5-4. After Luke Crumley put the first two Tigers on base in the seventh with a hit batsman and a walk, Perno went to the bullpen for Mancuso who made the first Southeastern Conference appearance of his career. Missouri’s Dylan Kelly tried to bunt Case Munson and Dane Opel to second and third. But Mancuso, who is 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, bounced off of the mound, fielded bunt and threw to third baseman Curt Powell to retire Munson for the first out in the inning.
Mancuso then dropped Keaton Steele and Logan Pearson on back-to-back flyouts to end the threat and Georgia retained its one-run lead. Mancuso pitched two innings of relief and allowed one hit and no runs with no strikeouts and no walks. Sean McLaughlin (4-2) picked up the win as he allowed four hits and one run (earned) with four strikeouts and no walks in five innings of work. Dylan Cole gave up two hits and a run in the ninth but picked up his third save.
“Wow, that was huge with Mancuso,” Perno said. “That was a clutch play. But the biggest thing was him and Dylan (Cole) threw strikes. That’s what was so disappointing with Luke and Ripple. Those guys are good and they can help us but they can’t help us if you can’t throw strikes. That’s just concerning because if they come in there pumping strikes, I think this game is a little bit easier than it ended up being.”
Georgia (12-19, 2-8 in the Southeastern Conference) will play Missouri 10-17, 3-8) in the rubber-match of the three-game series starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Foley Field. Probable starters are Georgia left-hander Jared Walsh (1-3, 2.55 ERA) and Missouri right-hander Alec Rash (2-1, 3.27).
“Every win is really precious,” Walsh said. “This is the best conference in the country and I don’t think anybody will disagree with that. It’s not always pretty. But if we can keep pounding on it this way, We’ll take it any way we can.”
Georgia had 11 hits against Missouri pitching. Walsh had two hits and two RBIs and Kyle Farmer had two RBIs on sacrifice flies. Curt Powell had three hits and an RBI. Freshman J.T. Phillips had a career-high three hits.
“It was awesome,” Walsh said. “We really squared some balls up today. I like that we didn’t wait around because when we’ve scored runs this year, we’ve kind of waited around until the seventh or eighth inning. We got it done early. The two-out RBIs were huge and Farmer had a couple of sac flies that really helped.”
Farmer and Walsh did the daily double twice in the first and third innings. Farmer’s sacrifice fly brought home Jess Posey with the game’s first run and Walsh followed with an RBI double to drive home Hunter Cole and Georgia led 2-0 in the first inning. In the third inning Farmer’s sacrifice fly scored Powell and Walsh followed with an RBI single to drive home Cole and Georgia led 4-0 in the third.
“That was a huge bounce-back,” Perno said. “It was a must-win and a very-much needed win and confidence boost. We tried to put a lot of pressure on them (Missouri). We did some hit-and-runs. We stole some bags and I think it gets our guys into it a little bit. They did a great job. I’m proud of them because it’s been tough-going with scoring runs the last couple of weeks.”
Brett Graves (0-4) took the loss for Missouri, allowing seven hits and five runs (all earned) with two strikeouts and one walk in 3 2/ innings.
Notes: Jess Posey got the first stolen base of his career. … Columbus native Josh Lester had one hit and one RBI for Missouri. … Georgia relievers Ripple and Crumley allowed three hits and three runs with three walks in one combined inning of work.