Georgia baseball looks even series against Auburn, flush heart-breaking loss
A collapse from Georgia’s bullpen resulted in a second gut-wrenching Game One loss at Auburn.
The Bulldogs (14-8, 0-4 SEC) blew a two-out, 6-3 lead in the ninth inning before falling 7-6 to Auburn on a walk-off walk in the 11th inning.
“It really hurts to be one pitch away,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said on 960 the Ref. “It’s a heartbreaker. I really feel it for our kids.”
It was a dose of deja vu for UGA after it blew a 4-3 ninth inning lead against South Carolina last weekend.
Georgia will look to rebound against the Tigers (15-6-1, 1-3) better than it did a week ago in Game Two at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Stricklin and several players talked about their failure to flush Game One’s disappointment and move on to Games Two and Three against the Gamecocks. UGA was outscored 24-3 in the series’ last two games.
The Bulldogs certainly need to ‘flush’ better this weekend, as Auburn is their only unranked opponent left on their SEC schedule.
“As much as you hate it, adversity builds character,” Stricklin said. “So, it’s adverse, it hurts. It’s painful, it’s supposed to hurt.
“When they wake up tomorrow, we’ve got to get ready to win a game and try to even up the series.”
Georgia’s second ninth inning collapse in six days could be cause for concern.
Freshman pitcher Matthew Hoskins, who gave up the go-ahead two-run double against the Gamecocks, suffered a similar fate on Thursday.
Auburn’s Bryson Ware slapped a Hoskins fastball down the right-field line for a two-run double to cut the lead to 6-5.
Hoskins was replaced by Will Pearson, who got the first batter he faced to chop a ground ball at charging shortstop Sebastian Murillo.
Murillo hurriedly sailed a potential game-winning throw over the outstretched glove of first baseman Charlie Condon, allowing Ware to score and tie the game at 6-6.
The two teams entered the weekend in very similar positions.
Both UGA and Auburn suffered sweeps in their SEC openers and will face top five squads next, adding extra urgency to a series win this weekend.
Connor Tate led the team offensively with his 14th multi-hit game of the season. The 24-year-old from Oconee County was 3-for-4 hitting with a walk and a double.
Righthander Kolten Smith provided a solid start for the Bulldogs, especially considering his condition.
The freshman, who nearly didn’t play due to a stomach bug sweeping through the team clubhouse, delivered three hitless innings before a pair of doubles ended his night in the fourth.
Smith finished with two hits and an earned run in 3.1 innings.
“It was going to be a really short leash anyways, to begin with,” Stricklin said about Smith’s limits on the SEC Network broadcast. “He missed his start on Sunday and he kind of limped through his bullpen on Tuesday.”
Smith’s 37-pitch outing was certainly shorter than what is normally required of a starting pitcher. He did appear to show promise as Stricklin continues the search for his No. 3 starter.
Stricklin has solidified his top two starting pitchers in Jaden Woods and Liam Sullivan but is yet to find a consistent and reliable third starter for the weekend.
Woods, who typically starts Game One for Georgia, will start Game Two. The junior lefthander hurled 102 pitches last Saturday and limited a Gamecock lineup that leads the country in homers to three runs in seven innings.
Georgia drew first blood in Game One with a three-run fourth inning. Charlie Condon and Parks Harber poked back-to-back RBI singles through gaps in the Auburn infield and Fernando Gonzalez mashed an RBI double to take the 3-0 lead.
The Bulldogs got a pair of insurance runs in the ninth inning. Mason LaPlante slapped an RBI single to bring home Samford transfer Will David, who whacked a leadoff double off the left-field wall.
Harber added his second RBI of the day three at-bats later with a sacrifice fly to center field.
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