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Kolby Branch grand slam helps Georgia blast into NCAA Athens Regional Final; Tech earns spot in elimination game

ATHENS, Ga. – The eighth-ranked Georgia baseball team earned an 11-2 victory over UNC Wilmington Saturday in front of a Foley Field crowd of 3,687 fans to clinch a spot in the NCAA Baseball Athens Regional final.

Fast Facts

· Corey Collins (2-3, R, RBI, HR, BB, HBP) blasted a solo home run to right field in Georgia’s first at-bat of the game, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead with his 19th home run of the season. It was the fourth time this year that he has led off a game with a home run.

· UNC Wilmington’s Trevor Marsh (1-5, R, RBI, HR) evened the score at one apiece with his 15th home run of the year to lead off the second inning for the Seahawks.

· Kolby Branch (1-4, 2 R, 4 RBI, HR, BB) sent his fourth grand slam of the season over the center field wall in the bottom of the second inning as the Bulldogs retook the lead, 5-1. The sophomore now holds Georgia’s individual single-season record in the category, tallying four of the Bulldogs’ 12 grand slams in the 2024 campaign.

· Branch crossed the plate on a Dylan Goldstein (1-4, R, RBI, SF) sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 6-1 in the fourth inning.

· UNCW left fielder Brock Wills (2-4, RBI, BB) scored second baseman Aiden Evans on a bases-loaded infield hit to trim Georgia’s lead to 6-2 in the top of the fifth. In the bottom of the inning, Georgia’s Dillon Carter and Clayton Chadwick crossed home plate on a UNCW throwing error that also allowed Branch to reach second, giving the Bulldogs a six-run lead, 8-2.

· After singling up the middle in the bottom of the seventh, Chadwick (1-1, 3 R, RBI, 2 BB, 2 HBP) advanced to second on a wild pitch, stole third, and scored on another wild pitch to tally the Bulldogs’ ninth run of the game.

· Fernando Gonzalez’s (0-4, R, RBI, BB) bases-loaded walk scored Goldstein to put the Bulldogs at the 10-run mark in the eighth inning. Slate Alford, who led the Bulldogs with three hits, then scored on a Chadwick hit-by-pitch to give Georgia the 11-2 advantage.

· Georgia’s batters were hit-by-pitch six times, matching the Bulldogs’ March 15 matchup at Kentucky for the most in a game this season.

· DJ Radtke (1-0) picked up the first win of his collegiate career as the first pitcher out of the bullpen for the Bulldogs. The redshirt sophomore gave up one hit, walked two, and struck out three in two innings on the mound. Kolten Smith (9-2) drew the start for Georgia, recording a stat line of four hits, two runs, six walks, and five strikeouts in four innings.

· Jacob Shafer (4-6) recorded the loss for UNC Wilmington, recording the start and pitching 1.1 innings for the Seahawks (3 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 1 HP).

Key Quotes

Georgia Head Coach Wes Johnson

Opening statement…

“We came out tonight and we were a little more relaxed, I don’t know if the word’s relaxed but a little more loose, I guess. We kind of had those jitters out of the way. I thought Kolton dealt with a lot of adversity, and was able to overcome some of that. Obviously, Kolby got off a big swing. He’s worked really hard on hitting the ball to right center, he got a pitch out over the plate and got a good swing. I thought DJ came in and really calmed down that situation after Kolton was cramping up and then Joshua and Christian finishing it out there on the mound and saving some additional bullets for tomorrow was big."

#9 Kolby Branch | INF | So.

On setting the tone early in the game…

“When Corey can set the tone like that, it’s good to see. He steps up there and, he’s done it too many times this season, the way he gets on the line and just lights the room up and makes everyone calm down just a tad. It’s good to see."

#38 DJ Radtke | RHP | R-So.

On getting his first strikeout of the night…

“It definitely helps. I think the biggest thing for us today was filling up the strike zone, and I tried to do that as best I could. Coach tells us all the time to believe in ourselves and that really helps me calm down when we’re out there in big spots."

UNC Wilmington Head Coach Randy Hood

On tonight's game...

"I'm really proud of our team, and I thought there were a lot of times throughout the game where we didn't respond in the way that we have a lot this year. First off, you walk six, you hit six - it's not going to be very positive from a pitching, defensive side. On the flip side, we left 15 runners on tonight. Give them credit. They made a lot of good, quality pitches. Maybe we didn't do a good job offensively hitting the ball or having good at-bats with runners on base. Just bottom line, when your offense is like that, and on the other side pitching and defense against a quality team, you're not going to win many games. I thought at 1-1, we were in. We tied it then it went 5-1 on the grand slam. We had moments when we could cut back in. We had runners on. At 6-2, I think we left the bases loaded again, and then at 8-2, same thing again. We never got the momentum to kind of get back into it. I'll give their pitchers, their team credit, but just a little disappointed on our end of just not doing a better job with pitching and defense, and then the other side, as well."

# 6 Jac Croom | INF | R-Sr.

On his plate appearance with bases loaded...

"That's a big moment where you need guys that have been here awhile, and the pressure is not too big for them. You need those guys to step up. Tonight, we just didn't have it, and we need to be better moving forward."

Up Next

Georgia will look to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals when it takes the field at 6 p.m. on Sunday. The Bulldogs will play the winner of Sunday afternoon’s elimination game between UNC Wilmington and Georgia Tech, who are set to play at 12 p.m. Both games will air on the ESPN family of networks with broadcast assignments yet to be announced.

UNC-Wilmington Head Coach Randy Hood

On tonight's game...

"I'm really proud of our team, and I thought there were a lot of times throughout the game where we didn't respond in the way that we have a lot this year. First off, you walk six, you hit six - it's not going to be very positive from a pitching, defensive side. On the flip side, we left 15 runners on tonight. Give them credit. They made a lot of good, quality pitches. Maybe we didn't do a good job offensively hitting the ball or having good at-bats with runners on base. Just bottom line, when your offense is like that, and on the other side pitching and defense against a quality team, you're not going to win many games. I thought at 1-1, we were in. We tied it then it went 5-1 on the grand slam. We had moments when we could cut back in. We had runners on. At 6-2, I think we left the bases loaded again, and then at 8-2, same thing again. We never got the momentum to kind of get back into it. I'll give their pitchers, their team credit, but just a little disappointed on our end of just not doing a better job with pitching and defense, and then the other side, as well."

# 6 Jac Croom | RS Sr. INF

On his plate appearance with bases loaded...

"That's a big moment where you need guys that have been here awhile, and the pressure is not too big for them. You need those guys to step up. Tonight, we just didn't have it, and we need to be better moving forward."

Saturday: Ga. Tech d. Army 4-2

In the first game Saturday, Georgia Tech eliminated Army 4-2 in game three of the NCAA Athens Regional baseball tournament at Foley Field on Saturday in front of a crowd of 3,453.

Fast Facts

Army

Junior right-hander Justin Lehman (5-4) got the start on the mound, pitching 6.1 innings, allowing six hits, three runs, three walks, and striking out two.

Senior Sam Ruta hit a two-run homer in the 6th inning, his 15th of the year.

The Army defense turned four double plays on the day.

Georgia Tech

Junior right-hander Aeden Finateri (6-4) started for Georgia Tech and got the win pitching six innings and allowing two runs on eight hits with five strikeouts.

Freshman Drew Burress (1-2, HR, 2 BB) knocked his 24th home run of the year, a solo shot, in the 1st inning.

Junior John Giesler’s (1-3, 2 RBI, HR, BB) 10th homer of the year came in the 1st inning.

Senior Mike Becccetti (1-3, RBI) singled in the 4th inning to score Bobby Zmarzlak.

Key Quotes

Army Head Coach Chris Tracz

On today's game...

"This is a tough one. To be where we were in the position in the last two games and not come out with a win is hard. These guys put themselves in position, game-ready to play. I thought we played well, pitched well, played defense well - everything you're really supposed to do here, and we just weren't able to get it done. I'm incredibly proud of our program and our seniors. Four regional appearances is not an easy feat anywhere in the country, let alone an academy. These guys to my right and to my left who are the present and the future of our program, we are pretty lucky to have you guys on our team. In our program, this one stings a little bit. To be a swing away in Athens to potentially have a chance to win two games and not get it done is tough. Again, I'd rather be in that position than any other."

#33 Justin Lehman | Jr. C/RHP

On his takeaways...

"It's a great opportunity obviously to come out and pitch in a regional. It's something every kid dreams of. I just want to go out there and play against the best and prove to the world that Army deserves to be here. We deserve to be with the best. We fought our way here and keep fighting. I think our two games showed it. We are not going to back down easily. We're going to give you all we have, and I just want to be a piece of that puzzle to help the team win."

Ga. Tech Head Coach Danny Hall

Opening statement…

“It was a really good win for us. I would like to start by tipping the cap to Army. Those guys came in here and battled hard for two days and were very close in both games. They were competitive yesterday and today, so hats off to those guys and what they stand for. Secondly, I’m proud of our guys and the guys who I brought in here today. They were very instrumental in getting us off to a good start after getting shut out last night, to have two home runs in the first inning by Drew and John, and Aeden just pitched a really competitive, gritty game. More than anybody, these three guys had a lot with us winning today."

#8 Drew Burress | OF | Freshman

On his home run…

“We knew their pitcher was throwing a lot of solid stuff down, cutters, change ups, some breaking balls. I was kind of just going to push something up in the zone, I got a hitters count, he left me a fastball down the zone, I got a good hit on it and it did what it was supposed to do."

#34 Aeden Finateri | RHP | Junior

On mentally preparing himself in a win-or-go-home situation…

“I think our with our team’s motto, we weren’t going to have this be our last game of the season. We were going go to out there and do whatever it took to get the win, extend our season and give us a chance to go on and keep playing. I think that mindset from the jump, even in the first inning with two homers and put up a zero in the first proves our mindset for today."

#40 John Giesler | INF | Senior

On his first inning homer following Burress…

“I give a lot of credit to Drew for doing that before I got up there gives me a lot of confidence, especially since we’ve been shut out in the last two games, which doesn’t happen a lot to us. I saw him take through a cutter, and I was just trying to hang it up the middle. I think I got a hanging breaking ball and just finally stayed through enough to poke it out of there."

Up Next

Georgia Tech will face UNC Wilmington in an elimination game on Sunday at 12 pm ET. The game will be available to stream on ESPN+. The winner faces Georgia (41-14) Sunday at 6 pm ET.