Georgia baseball recovers from SEC ‘gut punch,’ handles Georgia State 8-3
Georgia baseball answered coach Scott Stricklin’s call to be the aggressor in its 8-3 beatdown of Georgia State.
The 10th-year coach of the Bulldogs (14-7, 0-3 SEC) emphasized his team’s need to score on the Panthers (13-8, 3-0 SBC) early and often after suffering a sweep to No. 11 South Carolina last weekend.
“When you lose, it’s really challenging and we didn’t play really well (last) weekend,” Stricklin said on 960 the Ref. “The guys, they challenged themselves, and we challenged them as a staff and they answered tonight.”
UGA used a five-run second inning explosion to grab a lead it never surrendered at Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Stripers, in Lawrenceville.
Graduate center fielder Ben Anderson led the team with his first three-hit game of the season. The leadoff man was 3-for-4 hitting with a walk, two runs and an RBI.
Georgia scored four runs on three consecutive at-bats in the second inning. Mason LaPlante snagged a 1-0 lead for the Bulldogs by shooting an RBI single through the right side of the infield.
Freshman outfielder Justin Thomas followed with a two-RBI double to right field before Anderson logged an RBI single of his own.
Redshirt freshman Charlie Condon extended his hitting streak to 20 games. Condon can break the program’s longest hitting streak, which is 26 games, by next Sunday.
Stricklin used six different relievers to keep individual workloads light, as Georgia’s weekend series starts a day early.
Freshman Leighton Finley started and pitched two scoreless innings before surrendering a pair of runs in the third. Finley allowed three hits and a walk for two earned runs in 2.1 innings.
Georgia’s reserve arms were nearly perfect in the last 6.2 innings, giving up a run on four hits, a walk and six strikeouts.
Stricklin was also forced to rely on some of his depth. Several players, including starting third baseman Parks Harber, stayed in Athens with an illness that has swept through the team clubhouse.
“We’ve probably got 15 guys now that have gone through it, and I don’t think it’s over yet,” Stricklin said. “I hate to say that, but it’s just being passed around.”
Condon said that beating the Panthers would help UGA get its feet back under itself after last weekend’s SEC-opening sweep. An emotional loss in Game One last weekend delivered a ‘gut punch’ that staggered the Bulldogs through the rest of the series.
UGA’s ability to bounce back on Tuesday could regenerate some momentum for week two of SEC action.
Georgia will travel to face Auburn this weekend with Game One starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Plainsman Park.
Any recovered confidence from Tuesday’s win comes at a crucial time. The Tigers (13-6-1, 0-3 SEC) are likely UGA’s best chance at a series sweep, as they’re the only unranked SEC opponent left on its schedule.
Georgia also added to its impressive nonconference resume with the win.
The Bulldogs have already logged series wins over Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech and have a chance to sweep the Eagles next Wednesday. UGA also knocked off SoCon favorite Wofford a week ago.
A strong nonconference record will certainly impress the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, but Georgia will also need a respectable SEC record. A conference campaign full of sweeps like UGA suffered last weekend would severely harm its shot at a postseason bid.
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