ATHENS, Ga. --- For whatever reason, the fifth and sixth innings have been a bugaboo for Georgia all season.
The problem reemerged Tuesday in a 15-6 loss to 17th-ranked Georgia Tech, as the Yellow Jackets broke open a close game with three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to take a 9-2 lead in the rivals' first meeting of the season.
"We're obviously light in pitching, and it's tough when you've gotta go there," Georgia coach David Perno said. "... When we're good, our starters go out there and go seven, eight innings."
Starter Chase Hawkins gave the Bulldogs four innings, but the ensuing eight relievers allowed 13 runs in the final five innings.
Even when Georgia's four-run eighth cut Georgia Tech's lead to 9-6 entering the final inning, Bulldogs closer Tyler Maloof didn't give his team a chance to complete the comeback in the ninth.
Maloof hit three batters, walked three and surrendered six runs -- including a grand slam that completed a dynamic performance by Yellow Jackets third baseman Matt Skole -- in only two-thirds of an inning as the Yellow Jackets put an exclamation point on their victory.
"Tyler's been nails all year. He's 7 for 7 on saves, but some nights you don't have it," said Kevin Ruiz, who relieved Maloof and struck out Kyle Wren to end the ninth. "But we didn't lose the game in the ninth. We lost the game early on, when Chase Hawkins goes out there and for (four) innings, battles his tail off and we don't take advantage of situations to get in the lead and get momentum shifted in our favor."
By the ninth, Perno's problem was that he was almost out of pitching options, particularly with a series against six-time national champion Louisiana State University ahead this weekend. He gave Maloof every opportunity to complete the inning before finally giving up and moving Ruiz from first base to the mound to record the final out.
Skole was the driving force in the Yellow Jacket onslaught, going 5 for 5 with two home runs and eight RBI. The slam in the ninth put the Tech fans on their feet, as the Yellow Jackets were well on the way to their fourth consecutive win over the Bulldogs.