Michael Hyle pitched 8 1/3 innings and allowed just six hits as the Bulldogs beat No. 22 Mississippi State 5-1. Hyle received a standing ovation from the Foley Field crowd of 1,944 when he was pulled in the ninth inning.
“That’s Michael,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “All he does is go out there and win. He knows when it’s time to get it done.”
Mississippi State helped Hyle and Georgia (19-14, 4-8 SEC). The Starkville Bulldogs walked six Georgia batters, committed two errors, hit two batters, allowed a critical passed ball and even balked home a Georgia runner.
“The key to the ball game is Michael Hyle,” said Mississippi State coach Ron Polk, who coached Georgia for two seasons and recruited Hyle to Athens. “I think we swung the bat a little better than Georgia is some spots.”
Polk made three pitching changes in the seventh inning, when Georgia scored three runs. Brandon Lowe walked to start off the inning, and Justin Jacobs was then hit by a pitch. Derek Smith followed that up with a two-RBI double, the Bulldogs’ only extra-base hit of the game. Smith then advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a balk.
Georgia only hit six balls that left the infield. Three of its six hits were infield singles. Brandon Lowe singled to right field in the fifth inning, moved to second on an error by right fielder Brad Corley, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a throwing error by catcher Thomas Berkery.
Smith capped Georgia’s scoring with his fifth home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Georgia committed three errors of its own.
“They have to understand we can’t continue to win when we have three errors and six hits,” Perno said. “It’s always good to win when you don’t play extremely well. Hopefully we’ll play better (today) and get some momentum going. One big weekend and we’re back in the hunt.”
Cleanup hitter Josh Morris probably will have to heat up for the Bulldogs to have any more big weekends. Morris, a freshman All-American last year, was 0-for-4 Friday and hasn’t had a hit in an SEC game since March 26, a streak that spans seven conference games. He flew out to right field with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, making him 3-for-37 in the Bulldogs last 11 games overall.
But Morris’ problems were secondary Friday, thanks to Hyle.
Mississippi State (22-9, 6-6 SEC) kicked the ball around so much that Hyle had a couple long innings waiting in his dugout. During the fifth inning, he actually went to the bullpen area to throw and keep his arm loose.
Hyle probably would have tossed a complete-game shutout if Jason Jacobs hadn’t booted a double-play ball in the top of the ninth inning. Jacobs’ error allowed Jeffrey Rea to reach third base. Rea scored on a sacrifice fly in the next at-bat.
Still, his outing was the longest by a Georgia pitcher this year as he struck out four and walked only two.
“I came out and felt good,” Hyle said. “I felt like I was hitting my spots early, and I just stayed within (myself).”
Will Startup entered the game with the bases loaded in the ninth and didn’t allow a run.
“I ran into a little fatigue,” Hyle said. “Obviously, I’m disppointed (not to finish the game), but there’s no one else in the nation I’d rather hand the ball to.”
Unless Startup is needed for a relief performance today, he probably will start Sunday when Georgia and Mississippi State finish their series.