Georgia baseball digs in for pivotal road stretch, opens at Arkansas

UGA Pitcher Liam Sullivan (14) during a game against Kennesaw State at Foley Field in Athens, GA on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 (Photo by Jack Casey)
Jack Casey

ATHENS — Georgia baseball travels to No. 1-ranked Arkansas hoping to recreate the near-flawless style of play the Bulldogs used to take two of three from then-top-ranked Vanderbilt a few weekends ago.

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The Bulldogs (27-16, 10-11 SEC) play a three-game series against the Razorbacks (34-8, 15-6) beginning at 7:32 PM on Friday.

“We believe we can go in there and win, and that’s the only way you can think,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said.

“It’s very similar to where we were about a month ago going up to Nashville. It’s us against the world. We’ll have to play very good baseball to win a series.”

Stricklin believes the Bulldogs have not played clean baseball as of late, dropping the last two games of the series to Auburn after stranding a combined 16 runners on base in those games.

“We’ve got to do the little things, and move runners, and execute, and get guys in from third base,” Stricklin said. “If you don’t do the little things in this league, you’re going to get beat.”

There is precedent to be optimistic about Georgia’s chances.

Georgia was in a similar situation heading into the road series a month ago coming off a home series loss to South Carolina.

The Bulldogs responded by ambushing projected top MLB draft pick Kumar Rocker in Game One of the series in Nashville en route to taking the series from the Commodores.

Georgia went 6-2 in the eight games that followed the Vanderbilt series, rising in the rankings and gaining momentum.

The Bulldogs, however, have cooled off, now losers of three of their last four games. The UGA RPI ranking is down to 39th.

Stricklin gave the team an extra day off on Sunday to hit the reset button before this pending stretch of seven straight road games.

“When you put it all together, we’re as good as anybody,” Stricklin said. “I think that’s the toughest part about this league, is that everybody you play is so good and so talented, it’s tough to put those strings together.”

On paper, Georgia and Arkansas have produced similarly from the plate in league play.

The teams’ batting averages (.266 UGA, .263 UA), home runs (26 UGA, 30 UA), and slugging percentages (.434 for both) are nearly identical.

“It’s kind of eerie how similar we are,” Stricklin said. “So that’s what we are going to talk to our team about. Everyone knows how good Arkansas is and how talented they are, but when you look at the numbers with like opponents, it’s very, very similar.”

The Bulldogs will roll out a modified pitching schedule, as 6-foot-6, 250-pound freshman Liam Sullivan will start on Friday.

Sullivan, a former Marist standout who is from Sandy Springs, Ga., pitched four scoreless innings against Auburn last Saturday.

Jonathon Cannon (2-2, 4.19 ERA) will start on Saturday (TV: 7 p.m., SEC Network), and Ryan Webb (3-3, 3.04 ERA) will get the nod in Game Three at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

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