ATHENS, Ga. – Kevin Hill (Muscgoee Creek Nation) struck out a season-high 12 batters in a complete-game effort to lead the University of South Alabama baseball team to a 3-1 win over Georgia on the opening day of the Bulldog Invitational at Foley Field.
Hill (2-0) allowed one run on three hits in nine innings to earn his second win of the season and seventh career complete game. The right-hander retired the first 16 Bulldog batters he faced, and did not allow a hit until a one-out single by UGA second baseman LJ Talley in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“The one thing I liked about Kevin was that he was good, but it wasn’t like he was more amped up because of the opponent,” head coach Mark Calvi said. “I think he went at it a little bit harder when he gave up a run, and I was a little concerned that he was going to get outside of himself and what he was doing. But he was really good; it was typical Kevin Hill.”
South Alabama (5-0) jumped out to a one-run lead in the top of the first inning on a two-out RBI single by Danny Martinez. Travis Swaggerty led off the game with a single back up the middle, and moved to second when Tanner Halstead reached on a hit by pitch from UGA starter Robert Tyler. Danny Martinez worked the count full against UGA starter Robert Tyler before dropping a single into shallow left-center field to score Travis Swaggerty with the game’s first run and extend his hitting streak to five games.
The Jags held a one-run advantage until they pushed a second run across in the top of the seventh. Jared Barnes led off the inning with a double off the left field wall. Martinez followed with a walk before a wild pitch from UGA left-handed reliever Bo Tucker moved both runners into scoring position. Ben Gann then drew a walk to load the bases before Drew LaBounty reached on a bunt single on a suicide squeeze to score Barnes and double the Jaguar lead to 2-0.
“I have to give (assistant) Coach (Alan) Luckie credit with the squeeze call,” Calvi said. “I have the utmost amount of confidence in our coaches. Coach Luckie and I talk before the game, between innings and during timeouts in the game. That was his call to put down the squeeze. We had the right guy up; Drew (LaBounty) has done a great job handling the bat and we’re fortunate it worked out for us. Coach Luckie made the right call, and the guys executed it; it couldn’t have worked out any better.”
UGA (3-2) answered with its lone run of the contest in the bottom of the seventh on a leadoff solo home run to right-center field by Keegan McGovern to cut the USA lead in half.
USA then answered with a run in the top of the ninth inning to push its advantage back to two. Martinez led off the inning with a double to the right-center gap off of UGA right-hander Sam Vaughn, and Gann followed with a single back up the middle to put runners at the corners with no outs. Brendan Donovan followed with a walk from UGA right-handed reliever Shane Tucker to load the bases for LaBounty, who singled through the left side of the infield to score Martinez with the final run of the game.
LaBounty went 2-for-4 with two RBI, and Martinez finished 2-for-3 with a double, one RBI and a run scored to lead the Jags at the plate.
Tyler (0-1) allowed one run on two hits and struck out eight in six innings in the loss for the Bulldogs.
“We’re happy with the win today and proud of how the players responded,” Calvi said. “They faced a guy (Tyler) who was throwing hard out there. He was up to 95-96 with better offspeed stuff than advertised. He was really good, but our guys hung in there tough. The team approached it like it was just another game, which is what I appreciated about the whole thing.”