ATHENS -- Georgia baseball’s relief pitching sputtered through a bullpen game and failed to sweep Georgia Southern on Wednesday.

The Bulldogs (15-10, 1-5 SEC) used 11 pitchers and gave up 16 hits and 12 free bases in a 12-2 loss at Foley Field.

Only three UGA pitchers finished a full scoreless inning.

“Sometimes, it can be contagious,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “Certainly with a team like Georgia Southern, you can’t give them free bases because they play small ball and they put pressure on you.”

The Bulldogs beat the Eagles (13-12, 4-2 SBC) by scores of 17-11 and 9-4 three weeks ago. Georgia will look to bounce back this weekend when it travels to face No. 4 Vanderbilt in Nashville.

UGA will take on the Commodores (20-5, 6-0), who are riding an eight-game winning streak, at 6 p.m. on Friday. Vanderbilt swept SEC bottom feeders Ole Miss and Mississippi State to start its conference slate.

Freshman Kolten Smith got the first inning, as he is Stricklin’s newest candidate for the No. 3 spot in the starting rotation.

Smith started sluggishly on Wednesday, giving up a walk and a pair of doubles for two earned runs. The righthander then escaped any further damage with three consecutive flyouts.

Stricklin replaced Smith in the second inning, as Smith will need to be ready to face Vanderbilt on Sunday.

The Florida native gave up two hits for an earned run in 3.1 innings against Auburn in his first SEC start last Thursday.

Georgia Southern delivered the knockout blow in the sixth inning. Designated hitter Luke Hatcher knocked a grand slam off Colin Caldwell to take a comfortable 10-1 lead.

Georgia’s bats were uncharacteristically quiet following their 24-run outburst against Auburn last Saturday. UGA notched just six hits with two walks.

Connor Tate had the only multi-hit night to lead the group. Tate was 2 of 4 hitting and scored both runs.

The series win over Southern adds to UGA’s already impressive nonconference resume. Georgia also has a series win over Georgia Tech and an 8-3 record against nonconference competition with a top 100 RPI.

UGA’s nonconference success and its No. 36 RPI ranking somewhat atone for its 1-5 start to SEC action. Midweek victories alone won’t be enough to reach the postseason, though.

Georgia will likely have to upset some ranked SEC teams and avoid sweeps if they want to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.

Stricklin’s team has certainly come close. The Bulldogs blew ninth inning leads in both SEC series openers this season.

UGA’s pitchers - perhaps some of the relievers that struggled on Wednesday - will need to be sharper if they want to close out wins in the country’s top conference.

“It’s just confidence,” catcher Corey Collins said. “Remembering that you can do it and that you’ve done it before. Not to say last year, but just having these older guys that were coming out with fire in their eyes.

“I just want to see that from them.”

Georgia baseball vs. Georgia Southern Box Score (StatBroadcast/Dawgnation)