Georgia sweeps weekend series over UMass, top prospect Hancock shines

Bulldogs held Minutemen to two runs all weekend

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(Parker Peters/Daily Collegian)

By Joseph Aliberti, Collegian Staff

Georgia handled the Massachusetts baseball team this weekend, winning all three games by scores of 5-0, 16-2 and 6-0.

This doesn’t come as much surprise, as the Bulldogs (14-2) are ranked No. 5 nationally, while UMass (1-8) has now extended its losing streak to eight.

Georgia’s Emerson Hancock showed in his one start on Friday why he’s likely to be a top pick in this upcoming MLB draft. Hancock had 12 strikeouts in 7 1/3 shutout innings on 102 pitches, allowing no walks and only three hits.

Although the Minutemen don’t have any future top picks, they do have junior Sean Harney. Harney also had seven shutout innings, striking out seven of his own. Harney only allowed five hits and a walk until the eighth inning, where he finally allowed a run to a top-20 ranked Bulldogs offense.

“He was outstanding,” UMass coach Matt Reynolds said. “We were in a couple situations where we were feeling a little bit of trouble and he was just outstanding and pulled out of it. To give us that many innings of scoreless ball was really outstanding.”

After Harney’s eighth inning exit in the first game, the Bulldogs didn’t have much trouble on the offensive side of the ball, as they still hit at a .365 batting average as a team for the entire weekend.

The other two starters for the Minutemen, Ben Shields and Jack Steele, struggled in their two starts this weekend. Shields was on the mound for less than two innings, giving up eight runs off of four hits and four walks before he was replaced with in the bottom of the second. Steele allowed three runs, three walks and seven hits before getting subbed out with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.

The bullpen was also struggling this weekend, as the first pitchers to replace the starters in each of the three games combined allowed 14 runs in 3.1 innings pitched.

Other than first basemen/left fielder Anthony Videtto and second basemen Jordan Erbe, who were 4-of-12 and 5-of-11 this weekend, UMass batting struggled. If you take away those two hitters, the rest of the Minutemen offense had a combined batting average of .108.

Erbe has filled in as the replacement for Eddy Hart, the senior captain who usually fills up the second base position and has been making the absence of Hart not as felt, hitting .313 on the year and only accounting for one error in the field.

“He’s been thrusted into action at second, which is probably not his natural position,” Reynolds said. “He’s been getting more comfortable defensively and every time you look at the stat sheet, he’s able to put up a hit or two, and I think there’s a lot more to come.”

Injuries continued to plague the Minutemen, as redshirt junior catcher Connor Smith rolled an ankle this weekend and missed the rest of the series. It was primarily sophomore Dylan Judd that took his duties for the remaining of the weekend.

“I think he’ll be okay,” Reynolds said. “We’ll get him healthy this week, and hopefully he’ll be ready come Friday.”

Even though the Minutemen had struggles offensively and defensively, Reynolds and his staff understand that they were going up against a top-five team in the country that has arguably the best pitcher in the country and another pitcher in the top 10. Reynolds was still able to have a positive outlook knowing that there wasn’t much they would be able to do against a team of Georgia’s caliber.

“I think overall it has to be a learning experience for us,” Reynolds said. “There were definitely some negatives, but there’s also some really good positives. You don’t have the expectation to go down there and win two out of three, but to give ourselves an opportunity to compete against one of the best teams in the country. If we keep this weekend in the right frame of reference and learn from it, it could be a good jumping off point for us.”

The road trip will continue next weekend, as they will be facing another Southern opponent in Wofford.

Joseph Aliberti can be reached via email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JosephAliberti1.