ATHENS — Another strong start from junior right-hander Jonathan Cannon and 10 runs in the final two innings helped 16th-ranked Georgia dispatch No. 14 Vanderbilt, 13-7, Saturday afternoon before 3,405 spectators at Foley Field.
Cannon (9-1) earned the win for Georgia (32-15, 13-10 SEC) as he allowed six hits and four runs, while striking out five on 110 pitches, his highest total since tossing 109 against Florida on April 1. Vanderbilt (30-15, 11-12 SEC) right-hander Patrick Reilly (2-3) was tagged with the loss in relief, while Commodore starter Chris McElvain allowed three hits and four runs (two earned) in six innings of work.
Sophomore catcher Fernando Gonzalez led the Georgia offense with two home runs and four RBI, while graduate left fielder Connor Tate matched a season high with five RBI on two hits. The Bulldogs were especially potent with two outs, finishing 6-for-14 on the afternoon.
“(Cannon) went back out for the seventh,” said Ike Cousins Head Coach Scott Stricklin following the game. “He was close to that pitch count after the sixth, but he came back in the dugout and said, ‘I’m going back out.’…I thought that’s what won us the game, him going back out for the seventh, putting up a zero and giving us momentum.’
Georgia’s defense immediately made its mark in the top of the first as senior shortstop Josh McAllister caught a liner off the bat of Vanderbilt’s Spencer Jones and subsequently picked off his teammate Calvin Hewitt at first to end the inning.
Following a quiet first at the plate, the Bulldogs struck first in the second, with sophomore first baseman Parks Harber scoring on a two-out, RBI double to deep center from graduate right fielder Chaney Rogers. The Commodores responded in the top of the third with four runs, culminating in a two-run home run from Dominic Keegan. Thanks to consecutive errors, the Bulldogs earned back a run in the bottom half, but left the bases loaded with three straight batters retired.
After Cannon retired the side to begin the fourth, Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to seven games with a shot over the right field fence, bringing the margin to 4-3. Cannon continued to pitch well, racking up four consecutive scoreless innings and finishing off his day with a called strikeout to strand a Commodore at third in the seventh.
Escaping the jam proved to be opportune as the Bulldogs pounced on Commodore pitching in the bottom half of the seventh and took control of the game with eight runs in the frame. Following a leadoff walk and pitching change, Tate put Georgia ahead with a two-run homer to left, also extending his streak to seven.
With two outs, senior pinch hitter Garrett Blaylock extended the lead with an RBI single, followed by a three-run shot to deep center by Gonzalez, matching his season home run total from 2021 with a second on the afternoon. Tate returned to close out the inning with a two-run double to left, making the score 11-4.
In the eighth, Georgia tacked on two more insurance runs with a sacrifice fly from Rogers and an RBI double from junior third baseman Buddy Floyd. Vanderbilt used a pair of home runs in the ninth to narrow the final margin, but sophomore Max DeJong wrapped up the game by notching the final out.
Georgia and Vanderbilt close out their three-game series with the rubber match Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Foley Field. The Mother’s Day matchup will air on SEC Network.