Back on track: Baseball pounds Tennessee Tech

ATHENS, Ga. – The 12th-ranked University of Georgia baseball team (8-3) took down Tennessee Tech 12-2 on a chilly Tuesday night here at Foley Field. Quiet as of late, the Georgia bats came alive as they clubbed 12 hits to accompany a 12-strikeout effort by the Georgia pitching staff. Georgia's 12 runs marked a season-best offensive performance.

Georgia's breakout inning came in the bottom of the sixth. After freshman Joshua Fields struck out the side for the second straight inning, Derek Smith crushed Adam Cloar's offering into the pine trees over the wall in left field for a two-run homer, giving the Bulldogs a 5-2 edge. Jonathan Wyatt then walked with one out and proceeded to advance to third on a wild pitch and a passed ball. Matthew Dunn then walked and went to second on another wild pitch. With the bases loaded after a walk to Josh Smith, Justin Niefer drove in Georgia's sixth run as the first baseman committed a throwing error to home. Joey Side then doubled down the left field line to knock in two more runs, as Smith and Dunn trotted across the plate. Josh Morris made it a six-run inning with a sacrifice fly to deep center field that scored Niefer and gave Georgia a 9-2 lead.

The Golden Eagles (3-7) struck first, picking up a run in the first inning. They loaded the bases on two infield singles and a walk, setting up a sacrifice fly to center field by Nathan Marty.

After a scoreless second frame, the Bulldogs got on the board in the third as junior Matthew Dunn, hitting from the nine-spot, drove in Jonathan Wyatt. Wyatt hit a one-out double to right to put himself in scoring position, to set up the run. The rally ended prematurely though, as Dunn was thrown out on a steal attempt and Josh Smith struck out on a check-swing, leaving the contest knotted at one.

Tennessee Tech broke the tie in the next inning by playing some small ball. Sheehan led off the inning with a single, advancing to second on a throwing error by Jason Jacobs at third base. Britt Clubb dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move Sheehan to third, setting up a well executed squeeze play as Robby Adams bunted him home. With a 3-2 count and runners at the corners, Georgia went to the bullpen, calling on Fields to finish out the inning for starter Jason Fellows. Fields needed just one pitch to do so, as he got Brandon Selvog to pop out to the second baseman, ending the threat.

After Fields struck out the side in the top of the fifth, the offense backed up his effort with a two-out, two-run rally to give the Dogs their first lead of the contest. Jacobs reached on an error by the third baseman on a solidly struck ground ball. Dunn then bunted for a single, giving the Dogs two baserunners as Josh Smith stepped to the plate. Smith's bouncer up the middle caught the bag and took an awkward hop, giving the second baseman no play and allowing Jacobs to score from second. Niefer then loaded the bases with an infield single. With the bases juiced, Joey Side squibbed one into the dirt, scoring Dunn from third on another infield single. Side's RBI would prove to be all the Bulldogs would need, as it gave them a 3-2 advantage.

With the score favoring the Bulldogs 9-2 after their six-run sixth inning, Georgia put up three more in the eighth. Smith tripled to lead off the inning and scored as Niefer followed with a single up the middle. Side then hit a triple of his own to drive in Niefer, and Morris ended the scoring with another sacrifice fly to deep center field.

Fields was the winning pitcher in the contest, improving his record to 2-0 on the year. He worked 2.1 scorless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six. Golden Eagles starter Adam Cloar got the loss to fall to 0-2 as he surrendered five runs on eight hits through the first five innings.

"Joshua was fearless tonight, and that's what we've been waiting to see because he has shown that in practice," said Georgia coach David Perno. "We felt like our offense was close to coming together, and tonight it was much better. We put Josh (Smith) back in the leadoff spot, and he set the tempo and got us going."

The series concludes Wednesday with a 4 p.m. start. Georgia will start senior right-hander Johnny Dobbs while the Golden Eagles have not announced a starter.

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