Georgia baseball ends season at SEC tourney, gloomy 9-0 defeat to South Carolina
The Georgia baseball season came to a damp, disheartening end on Tuesday at the the SEC tourney at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
The No. 6-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks eliminated the No. 11-seed Bulldogs with a 9-0 victory that effectively ended Georgia’s remote hopes for an NCAA tournament bid.
“Frustrating, disappointing,” UGA 10th-year coach Scott Stricklin said on the Georgia radio network following the game.
“There were a lot of heartbreaks, a lot of late-inning heartbreaks when we had opportunities and didn’t finish games.”
Sixth-year South Carolina coach Mark Kingston put the challenges of coaching in the SEC into perspective after the game.
“The best way you can sum it up, the two defending national champions didn’t make the SEC Tournament this week,” Kingston said, referring to Ole Miss and Mississippi State finishing outside the field of 12 who qualify.
“It is a dogfight every week, it’s the best players, the best coaches, the best environments, and it’s hell on wheels on the road to try to win games. Nobody goes through it unscathed, there’s an effect it takes on your team of having to be on your A game every single weekend.”
Georgia finishes the season 29-27 and 11-20 in conference games, dropping six of their final seven games after playing itself on the tourney bubble following a series win over Tennessee earlier in the month.
The Bulldogs hoped the return of staff ace Jaiden Woods, who had missed his past five SEC starts, might bring the necessary amount of pitching depth to provide a deep tournament run.
Woods (3-3), who was sidelined by biceps tendonitis, was not able to get out of the second inning, surrendering three hits and two earned runs in his 1 2/3 innings of action amid temperatures in the 60s with a wind blowing in.
Stricklin revealed Woods was nearing a 30-pitch count the team had planned for him, anyway.
“We thought that was the right move to make,” Stricklin said. “It gave us a boost, and the kids love him. Glad he was able to get back out there.”
The Bulldogs exhausted their bullpen in an effort to stay close but could not slow down No. 19-ranked South Carolina.
The Gamecocks, who entered the tourney having lost their final four SEC series, extended their 2-0 lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning with a pair of RBI singles and a bases loaded walk.
Georgia was one pitch away from closing the gap in the top of the seventh inning with the bases loaded, but leadoff hitter Ben Anderson took a called third strike to end the threat.
“We weren’t able to get the big hit with runners on in scoring position,” Stricklin said. “(And) they kept the pressure on, they kept the ball in play and had some balls fall in.”
South Carolina proceeded to blow open the game in the bottom of the frame when Will Tippett, who was batting .176, delivered a bases-loaded triple that made it 8-0.
South Carolina, hoping to host an NCAA tournament regional, added another run via sacrifice fly in its final at-bat in the bottom of the eighth.
Georgia’s offense was largely flat throughout the game against Gamecocks pitcher James Hicks (7-1), who was making his first SEC start and threw a career-high 90 pitches.
The Bulldogs’ bats mustered just five hits. Sebastian Murillo, a transfer from Long Beach State, who bats seventh in the order, had three singles. Yale transfer Mason LaPlante had a double, and Atlanta Westminster product Parks Harber had a single.
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