Cole Wilcox came to Georgia for days like Sunday.
The Bulldogs finished off a weekend and doubleheader sweep of Florida with a 4-1 victory, and Wilcox was a big reason why.
In a shortened seven-inning game, the freshman went the distance on the mound for the Bulldogs and polished off his first collegiate complete game. Wilcox gave up one run and two hits. He walked one and struck out a career-high seven Gators.
“I knew we had to win the game,” Wilcox said. “I just tried to compete, and I threw a lot of strikes. It worked out, the defense made every play.”
It took the hard-throwing right-hander only 83 pitches to go the distance, 57 were strikes. His fastball command was a large component of the success, but that was expected. Wilcox said his secondary pitches were really what helped him be efficient.
“The slider was really working,” he said. “It allowed me to really get ahead of hitters. It was a good swing-and-miss pitch and allowed me to put them away.”
He added that his changeup was good but it’s still a work in progress.
Going into the weekend series, Georgia’s third starting pitcher was listed as “TBA.” Wilcox knew early in the week that there was a strong chance he’d get the start. After strong performances from Tony Locey and Tim Elliott in the first two games, it was Wilcox’s turn.
Sunday’s second game marked the third start of Wilcox’s career. It was by far his best. In his two prior starts, Wilcox had never pitched more than 4.1 innings and looked shaky at times. Now, he’s starting to settle down.
“It’s like a lot of our freshman, the game’s slowing down,” head coach Scott Stricklin said. “He was going a million miles when he hit the mound that first weekend against Dayton. Now, he’s just taking a breath and slowing down a little bit.”
Two Gators tagged Wilcox for a hit and he only gave up one hit after the first inning. Nelson Maldonado singled in the first. Later, Brady McConnell hit a solo home run and provided Florida’s only run.
Florida entered the weekend hitting .296 as a team, but it had no answer for Wilcox. At one point, Wilcox retired 13 consecutive batters. He finished the game by retiring 20 of 21 Gators.
“He was locked in,” Stricklin said. “He was getting a whole lot of big-league hitters out today. He was outstanding.”
Wilcox decided to come to college despite being a highly-touted MLB draft pick. When he chose to be a Bulldog, it was so he could get better by going against the best players in college baseball, and Sunday were the unquestionably the best numbers in his small sample size this season. Afterwards, Wilcox agreed with Stricklin’s sentiment, things feel more natural to him now.
“Just the comfort level,” Wilcox said on his progression. “Being able to go out out there and know I was going to throw strikes…I just put everything aside and competed.”
Wilcox’s effort on Sunday clinched Georgia’s first sweep of Florida since 2006. The Bulldogs hadn’t swept the Gators in Athens since 1983, 16 years before Wilcox was born. But for him, he was just happy to win.
“That was just a lot of relief off our shoulders I think,” Wilcox said. “It was a good way to get the end of the season going.”