University of Georgia pitcher Emerson Hancock (17) throws a pitch during a game against the University of Dayton at Foley Field on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Dayton Flyers with a score of 5-1 in the first game of the three-game series. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

No. 11 Georgia took the win in its first SEC matchup and first game against a top-25 opponent this season, beating No. 23 South Carolina on Friday night 6-1 to open this weekend’s series in Columbia.

Georgia starting pitcher Emerson Hancock entered the night with a 0.38 ERA through his first four starts and had allowed only 12 hits in 24 innings pitched. He continued to establish himself as one of the best Friday night starters in the country with his performance against South Carolina.

He baffled the Gamecocks for seven innings, striking out a career-high 12 batters and allowing only a single run to cross the plate on a solo home run in the third inning. He defended a slim 2-1 lead through the fifth inning before his offense solved his counterpart and pulled away.

“I thought that was Emerson’s best outing of his career and there’s a lot more good wins left in him,” head coach Scott Stricklin said. “He was dialed in from the first pitch that was 98 miles per hour, and he held his velocity the entire game.”

Georgia took control in the top of the sixth, putting up four runs and chasing South Carolina starter Wesley Sweatt from the game. After an error and a single, Aaron Schunk found a gap and drove in both runners with a triple.

A sacrifice fly and another extra-base hit put two more runs on the board and gave Georgia a comfortable margin. That big inning and the pair of runs Georgia scored in the second inning proved to be more than enough support for its ace.

Hancock returned to the mound for two more innings, working out of trouble in the bottom half of the sixth before working through a perfect seventh with two strikeouts. He threw 106 pitches, by far the most he’s been allowed to throw so far this year.

“He never got rattled,” Stricklin said. “They got a home run, it was hit well, but he didn’t give them any chances to breathe. He was all around the strike zone.”

Justin Glover followed Hancock and dropped the 1.69 ERA he carried through his first six appearances even lower by striking out the side in the eighth. He worked around a leadoff single in the ninth to seal the win for the Bulldogs.

Top Performers

Emerson Hancock- Last year as a freshman, Hancock faced South Carolina in Athens and pitched six innings of one-run baseball. He one-upped himself in his second crack at the Gamecocks to earn his fifth win in five starts this season.

He started the game off with a three-pitch strikeout and never looked back. He was unfazed when he allowed his first home run of the season in the third inning, bouncing back to retire the side. He worked in and out of more trouble late in his outing to make it through seven outstanding innings.

Riley King- King put together a multi-hit game for the tenth time already this season in only game number 18. He also scored one of the Georgia runs out of the second spot in the lineup, a spot he’ll likely remain in after it was announced Tucker Bradley would miss the remainder of the season due to injury.

John Cable- In his young career, Gamecock starter Sweatt has struggled against left-handed batters, which got the powerful lefty Cable into the lineup as the designated hitter. He delivered with a two-run homer in the second inning after a fellow left-handed batter, LJ Talley, stroked a leadoff single up the middle.

“John had a great at-bat,” Stricklin said. “He hit a line drive, you can’t hit a ball any harder than that. It was a big one to put us on top.”

It was Cable’s second home run of the season, the first being a grand slam against UMass Lowell on Feb. 24. Five of his eight hits so far this year have gone for extra bases.

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