Georgia counting on veteran players to bring energy, avoid sweep at Tennessee

Georgia graduate student Ben Anderson bats leadoff and typically provides a spark for his team, but he's 0-for-8 hitting in the series at Tennessee through two games.
Tony Walsh / UGA Spoerts

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia has shown plenty of poise amid the raucous Lindsey Nelson Stadium environment.

But poise hasn’t been enough for the No. 22-ranked Bulldogs to find a victory against No. 1 Tennessee, and coach Scott Stricklin is calling on his team for more.

The teams meet at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the series finale (SEC Network-Plus) with the Vols’ starting a pitcher in Ben Joyce who threw a 105.5 mph fastball this season.

“That’s what I said, how are we going to show up tomorrow?” Stricklin said after Friday night’s 9-2 loss to the Vols.

“Are you going to show up and fight, or are you just going to wear it? That’s the challenge.”

RELATED: Tennessee clinches SEC regular season with win over Georgia

Dropping the first two games of an SEC series isn’t something Stricklin and this group of Bulldogs have had to deal with this season.

It’s a savvy, experienced UGA lineup with seniors or graduate students in six of the nine spots in the batting order.

Stricklin is turning to sophomore Liam Sullivan with hopes the 6-foot-6 left-hander from Sandy Springs can keep the SEC’s top-hitting team in check long enough for UGA to score some runs.

“We have to find a way to get a win,” Stricklin said. “Liam Sullivan needs to give us a good start, and we need better at-bats from our veteran team.”

Former Oconee County High School stars Cole and Connor Tate, two of the hardest working players on the team, have accounted for eight of Georgia’s 12 hits in the series against Tennessee.

Cole Tate, one of the Bulldogs’ graduate students, is 5-of-7 hitting with two home runs.

RELATED: Cole Tate’s healthy return adds punch to Georgia baseball at Tennessee

Senior Connor Tate, Cole’s twin brother, came alive in Game Two with a 3-for-4 hitting performance.

Other experienced team leaders have struggled to get on base.

Most notably, leadoff hitter and grad student Ben Anderson has gone 0-for-8 in the series, and redshirt senior Josh McAllister is 0-for-7.

Tennessee’s elite pitching has a lot to do with it. The Vols lead the nation in Team ERA.

Stricklin knew getting a win in Knoxville would be a tough task, and that his players would need to match the enthusiasm Tennessee plays with in front of standing-room-only crowds.

“The only thing you can do is give that energy back,” Stricklin said. “Have energy, have focus, and bring your best baseball with you.”

RELATED: Georgia braces for hostile environment at Tennessee

Neither team has swept a series from the other since Georgia swept Tennessee in Knoxville in 2015, and Georgia hasn’t been swept in Knoxville since 2007.

Follow Mike Griffith on Twitter at @MikeGriffith32

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