ATHENS — The wind chill had dropped into the mid-30s by game’s end at Foley Field, but Georgia baseball coach Scott Stricklin was hot.

The Bulldogs had just dropped a season-opening 8-5 game against Jacksonville State, and Stricklin did not hesitate to place blame on his ball club.

Yes, the gritty Gamecocks had made diving plays and delivered timely hits throughout the afternoon game, but the Georgia pitching staff teed them up for the win with eight walks and five hit batters among the six pitchers used.

The Bulldogs will send junior Liam Sullivan to the mound at 2 o’clock on Saturday to right the ship, and Stricklin made clear it will be a Georgia team operating with a sense of urgency.

“We’ve got to fight back, and we’ve got to win the series,” said Stricklin, who opened his 10th season as head coach on his 51st birthday on Friday.

“We’ll find out what kind of team we are tomorrow.”

It better be a good one, or the Bulldogs will be sitting at home come the NCAA tournament and quite possibly 12-team SEC tournament.

The SEC has six of the top seven ranked teams in the NCAA Baseball preseason coaches poll, and seven of the top 10:

• 1. LSU

• 2. Tennessee

• 3 Texas A&M

• 5. Florida

• 6. Arkansas

• 7. Ole Miss

• 9. Vanderbilt

Georgia came in tied for No. 40 among “others receiving votes,” ahead of only Kentucky and Missouri.

Stricklin has done his best to make the Bulldogs a competitive program amid challenging circumstances, as UGA lacks competitive facilities and does not waive out-of-state tuition for recruits like other SEC rival programs.

Georgia recently announced that the completion of upgraded and renovated facilties would be delayed yet another year because of economic challenges.

RELATED: Josh Brooks explains Georgia baseball facility delays

Stricklin found out on Friday that his pitching staff, led by sixth-year assistant coach Sean Kenny, might be plagued by the same issues this season as it was last year, when it led the SEC in the frequency of walks issued and hit batters.

Fortunately, he also found out his team has enough hitting to keep it in games.

The Bulldogs rallied from 5-0 down to tie the game at 5-5, as Ben Anderson, Parks Harber and Cole Wagner each produced multi-hit games.

Jacksonville State, however, was the more opportunistic of the clubs after the contest entered the ninth inning tied 5-5.

Gamecocks’ junior Mason Maners sliced a two-out, 2-2 pitch into the left-center gap, breaking the tie with a two-run double.

To Stricklin’s point, the two Jacksonville runners who scored had reached base on a hit-by-pitch and walk by reliever Chandler Marsh.

“When you just keep putting guys on base, it will catch up to you,” Stricklin said. “We were one pitch away from getting back into the dugout in the ninth.”

Jaden Woods, Georgia’s highest ranked player entering this season according to Baseball America (No. 89), opened the season as the No. 1 pitcher in the rotation.

Just two innings later, Woods was out of the game, surrendering four runs on three hits with five walks, a hit batter and two, 2-run home runs surrendered.

“Didn’t throw enough strikes, the wind is blowing out, he’s behind in the counts and he’s not throwing his breaking ball for strikes, that’s a bad combination,” Stricklin said.

“He walked five, and solo shots don’t beat you on a day the wind is blowing out, but he gave up two 2-run home runs and both of those guys were on via walks.”

Sixth-year graduate student Ben Anderson — who put off medical school for year to play another season of Georgia baseball — echoed his head coach.

“Going forward, on the mound, pitchers (need to) compete more and throw strikes, and get guys out there that are going to do that,” Anderson said.

“Offensively we didn’t do bad … We know we’re the better team, and we’re going to keep swinging it.”