In game two of a three-game series, the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs fell to Georgia Southern 1-0 as the Eagles clinched the series.
Georgia’s C.J. Smith returned to the pitching rotation Tuesday night to start against the Eagles at SRP Park in Augusta.
Bulldogs’ head coach Scott Stricklin told the media Sunday afternoon that Smith didn’t pitch this past weekend was because he needed to tweak some of his throwing mechanics, but also to improve his changeup.
Smith started out the game strong retiring three of four batters in the first and stranding one Eagles’ runner on base. In the bottom half of the inning, leadoff hitter Ben Anderson was able to reach base on a walk, but the Bulldogs weren’t able to make anything happen as the next three batters flied out.
In the second, Eagles’ right fielder Christian Avant reached first on an error by Cam Shepherd. Then he reached second on an error committed in right field on a flyout in foul territory. Smith was able to hold him at second as he got the next two batters out.
Georgia didn’t get their first hit until the fourth inning as Cole Tate led off the inning with a single. With Patrick Sullivan up, Tate then successfully stole second to get into scoring position. He then advanced to third on Sullivan’s single, putting runners on the corners for Georgia with no outs. The Bulldogs weren’t able to score as Eagles’ relief pitcher Jacob Parker struck out three consecutive batters.
Eagles’ center fielder Parker Bierder started off the fifth with a triple and scored on a sacrifice bunt to put Georgia Southern up 1-0. Smith was pulled after the end of the sixth, but he ended up retiring six of seven batters he faced. Smith pitched six innings giving up one run on three hits, and struck out three while only walking one.
Junior left-hander Ryan Webb entered the game in the top of the seventh and pitched a shutout inning stranding Jason Swan on second after he led off with a double. Georgia had the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, but with two outs Tate couldn’t deliver as he struck out swinging. With those three men left on base, that totaled ten for the Bulldogs in the game.
Webb held off the Eagles in the top of the eighth retiring three-of-four and stranding one runner. Riley King‘s one-out single gave Georgia some hope, but Connor Tate flied out and Garrett Blaylock lined out to third to keep the Eagles’ shutout alive.
Sophomore Jack Gowen came in to relieve Webb in the ninth. The Folkston native got Avant to fly out and got into a 2-2 count with Swan, but then struck him out swinging. Bierder reached base again on a walk, but Gowen picked him giving the Bulldogs some momentum going into their final at-bat.
In the bottom of the ninth, Eagles’ relief pitcher Hayden Harris was able to shut down the Bulldogs three-up, three-down. He struck out Randon Jernigan and Anderson looking, then got Cam Shepherd to fly out to end the game.
This is the first time that Georgia has been shutout all season. Ben Anderson was the lone Bulldog to have multiple hits as he went two-for-three with two walks.
Georgia returns to action Wednesday to face the Eagles again in Statesboro at 6 p.m.