Georgia baseball falls 9-2 to No. 4 Vanderbilt, looks to even series in Game Two Saturday

Georgia during Georgia’s game against Georgia Southern at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2023. (Kari Hodges/UGAAA)
Kari Hodges

Georgia baseball’s rocky start to SEC play continued in a 9-2 loss at No. 4 Vanderbilt.

The Bulldogs (15-11, 1-6 SEC) failed to build on and protect an early 2-0 lead, falling before a hostile Commodore crowd at Hawkins Field in Nashville.

UGA will look to even the series when Game Two starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Lefthander Liam Sullivan, who has the lowest ERA out of Georgia’s starting pitchers (2.57), will start on the mound.

That failure to build on leads has been a handicap for UGA this season. The Bulldogs have now scored first in four of their six conference losses.

Third baseman Will David slapped a two-run homer into the left-field stands in the second inning for Georgia’s only lead of the day. Vanderbilt quickly responded with a two-run bomb of its own in the bottom half of the inning.

The Commodores (21-5, 7-0) kept climbing from there while the Bulldog batters fell silent.

“Once they get a lead, then they really try to expand,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “They executed.”

Georgia had no sustainable answer for Vanderbilt ace Carter Holton, finishing with just seven hits on the day.

Jaden Woods held the score at 2-2 until the fifth inning when Vanderbilt plated four more runs. Woods gave up nine hits and three walks for eight earned runs with five strikeouts in 5.2 innings.

“(Vanderbilt got a) first pitch triple, and the gates opened a little bit,” Stricklin said of the four-run fifth inning. “Once you got behind, Carter Holton really got better.

“Throwing that breaking ball when it’s 1-0 and he gets behind really kept our hitters off balance.”

Georgia’s bullpen looked sharper in the last 2.1 innings of work, surrendering three hits and a walk for an earned run.

For what it’s worth, Georgia is facing a red-hot Vanderbilt team this weekend. The Commodores have been able to match their elite pitching with explosive hitting since SEC action started three weeks ago.

Vanderbilt, which averaged just over six runs per game through pre-conference play, has averaged over 13 runs since SEC games began.

Taking Game One of a series is important for every team as it looks to set the tone for the weekend series. For Georgia, though, winning the first two games seems crucial if it wants to win the series.

That’s because the Bulldogs still have not solidified a third weekend starter. Freshman Kolten Smith, Stricklin’s most recent candidate for the job, was shut down for the weekend with shoulder tendinitis.

To be clear, the Bulldogs are not losing a solidified weekend starter because Smith is out. The righthander has been strong in moments but far from reliable as a starter.

Smith has posted a 5.63 ERA in four starts this year.

Stricklin will simply need to look elsewhere, likely to the best available arm that has not pitched by Sunday.

The Commodores, on the other hand, have three established weekend starters, giving them an advantage Sunday before they take the field.

“(The players) certainly fought hard tonight, I thought we had that in us,” Stricklin said. “It was encouraging to see. It’s discouraging to look at the scoreboard, there’s no question.”

David led the team, hitting 2 for 4 with two RBI, a homer and a run.

Freshman Charlie Condon’s bid for the program’s longest hitting streak fell four games short in the loss. Condon was hitless for the first time in 24 outings.

Georgia baseball vs. Vanderbilt Box Score
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