Georgia sophomore Ryan Lawlor pitched a complete game gem en route to leading the Bulldogs to a 4-1 victory over No. 23 Tennessee Friday evening at Foley Field.
April 11, 2014
ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia sophomore Ryan Lawlor pitched a complete game gem en route to leading the Bulldogs to a 4-1 victory over No. 23 Tennessee Friday evening at Foley Field.
With the win, Georgia improves to 20-14-1 on the season (6-7-1 SEC), while Tennessee drops to 23-10 overall, including a 6-8 mark in SEC play.
Lawlor went the distance for the first time in his Bulldog career in front of a crowd of 2,779 fans, surpassing his previous career-high of 7.2 innings pitched. The southpaw out of Savannah, Ga., allowed just one run - in the first inning - while scattering five hits and recording a career-high 10 strikeouts to improve to 3-2.
The last time a Georgia pitcher threw a nine-inning, complete-game win at home was on April 12, 2012, when Michael Palazzone accomplished the feat in an 8-4 win over No. 18 Ole Miss. Sean McLaughlin pitched a complete game at home last year for Georgia on April 27, but the Bulldogs ultimately fell 2-1 to No. 14 Arkansas.
Tennessee starter Hunter Martin (2-2) lasted seven innings on the evening, allowing four runs - all earned - to go along with four hits and three strikeouts. Georgia finished with five hits, including a pair from Hunter Cole and one apiece from Jess Posey, Nelson Ward and Stephen Wrenn.
"Ryan was just really dialed in from the second inning on," said Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin. "The first inning was a little bit shaky, but a lot of starting pitchers have that. They may have trouble getting out of the bullpen to start that first inning, but Ryan found a way to get through it."
"I really challenged our guys to take care of the infield today," added Stricklin. "Tennessee came out very aggressive yesterday, and really they were more aggressive than us. I just wanted our guys to be a little bit more aggressive and take advantage of being at home. I also thought that Brandon Stephens did a great job behind the plate handling all of the pitches from Ryan."
The Vols picked up their only run of the game in the top of the first after leadoff hitter Will Maddox reached base on an infield single and eventually came home to score on a sacrifice fly to left by Scott Price.
Georgia loaded the bases to start the bottom of the second inning after Ward reached on an infield single, Daniel Nichols was hit by a pitch and Posey reached on a bunt single. Stephens proceeded to tied the game with an RBI groundout to third that plated Ward for Georgia's first run of the game. Skyler Weber followed by reaching on a fielder's choice RBI to score Nichols from third, giving the Bulldogs an early 2-1 advantage.
Tennessee threatened with runners on first and second with just one out in the third, but the Bulldogs quickly ended any scoring threat by turning a 6-4-3 double play, their league-leading 34th double play of the season.
After a scoreless fourth inning by both teams, Georgia added two more runs to its total in the fifth. With one out, Bell was hit by a pitch and Wrenn followed by beating out a bunt down the third base line to put two runners aboard. After a wild pitch allowed each runner to move up a base, Cole responded in timely fashion by dropping an RBI single into left to score Bell and extend Georgia's lead to 3-1. The scoring continued when Welton sent an RBI sacrifice fly deep enough into left to allow Wrenn to tag from third and score, giving Georgia a 4-1 advantage.
Tennessee threatened once again in the sixth, putting a runner in scoring position at second base after an error and a wild pitch, but Lawlor responded by notching yet another strikeout - his second of the inning and seventh of the game - to escape the jam.
Tennessee put two runners on base with two outs in the eighth, but Lawlor calmly induced an inning-ending flyout to center field to eliminate the threat and exit the game with a then career-high eight innings pitched. Lawlor retired seven straight batters at one point between the sixth and eighth innings.
"In the first inning, I wasn't really settled in yet, but I was able to get out of some jams," said Lawlor. "The defense really helped out a lot. After that, I was able to settle in and get comfortable out there."
Lawlor returned to the mound in the ninth inning, retiring the Volunteers in order by a way of a groundout to second, a foul out to first base and a game-ending strikeout to preserve the 4-1 complete-game victory.
This marks the third straight game in which Lawlor has either tied or bested his previous career-high strikeout mark. Lawlor recorded a then-career high eight strikeouts in his previous two starts - on April 5 at Missouri and on March 28 vs. Texas A&M - before notching his new career-high of 10 on Friday evening.
Georgia will aim to take the series against the Volunteers Saturday at 4 p.m. at Foley Field. Freshman Robert Tyler (2-2, 1.69 ERA) will have the start on the mound for the Bulldogs. The game is sold out, however a limited number of seats are available in the right field bleachers where there is no admission.