Georgia baseball looks to move past Auburn series ‘gut punch’

Georgia infielder and outfielder Riley King (31) during a game against Auburn a at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Photo by Rob Davis)
Rob Davis

ATHENS -- Georgia baseball is ready to move forward from a tough home series that saw Auburn take two of three from the Bulldogs.

“It is a gut punch,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “It hurts. You win on Thursday, and you feel pretty good about it.”

Georgia (27-16, 10-11 SEC) cruised to a quick 4-0 victory over the Tigers (19-21, 5-16) in game one of the series behind Fernando Gonzalez’s sixth-inning grand slam into the right-field bleachers.

“It’s one of those games that one swing can change it,” Gonzalez said. “I’m glad it happened. I’m happy he didn’t take me out.”

The freshman catcher is referring to Stricklin’s comments earlier in the press conference when the UGA coach said he twice almost called Garrett Spikes to pinch hit for Gonzalez to get a more favorable left-vs-left matchup.

“My dad would call that out-thinking yourself,” Stricklin said. “Fernando was catching really well; I didn’t want to do it that early. I didn’t outthink myself. I let it happen, and Fernando rewarded me for letting him stay in there.”

Gonzalez’s home run prevented Ryan Webb’s 6 innings of shutout baseball from ending in a no-decision. Webb threw 63 pitches before being removed from the game for precautionary reasons after lower back tightness.

“[Webb’s] fastball was really good,” Stricklin said. “They had to cheat a little bit to get to 93, 94. The changeup and breaking ball, that’s what is going to get him to the big leagues, and he was able to utilize all three pitches.”

Despite losing game two 10-6 in 14 innings, Georgia showed resilience tying the game up four times before a four-run 14th inning.

“I thought we had opportunities certainly to score some runs,” Stricklin said after Friday’s game. “We had some opportunities to win it, and we didn’t do it. We didn’t execute, and then they got out of the inning.”

Anderson blasted a home run to right-center to match Auburn’s two runs in the bottom of the 12th inning, and Riley King’s sacrifice fly scored another run to keep pace in the bottom of the 13th.

The starting pitching was again fantastic as Jonathon Cannon pitched 7 innings of five-hit, three-run baseball. Jaden Woods pitched 4.2 innings of two-hit, two-run baseball in relief.

“Jonathon Cannon--I didn’t think he had his best stuff, but I thought he battled,” Stricklin said. “One of my favorite outings I’ve seen from him. Jaden Woods deserved to get the win, and we just couldn’t get it for him.”

Georgia fought until the last out in game three, placing the tying run at second base in the bottom of the ninth inning, but fell just short 9-7.

Luke Wagner was the opener for the planned bullpen game and allowed six runs on five hits in 1.2 innings. Liam Sullivan pitched 4.0 innings of one-hit, shutout baseball to stop the Tigers’ scoring in the middle of the game—a career-high for Sullivan in innings pitched.

“The problem was we let it get to 9-4,” Stricklin said. “The way we came out of the gate, you’re not going to win many games when you give someone seven runs in the first three innings.”

Since trailing 7-0 after two-and-a-half innings, the Bulldogs scored runs in the home half of the third, fourth, sixth, and ninth innings to keep it close.

Georgia is looking forward to traveling to #1 Arkansas (33-7, 14-5 SEC) next.

The last time Georgia played a No. 1-ranked team on the road, UGA took the series from Vanderbilt went on to win eight of the next 12 games, including three SEC series victories.

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