There is a reason that the Arkansas Razorbacks entered Wednesday’s contest against the Georgia Bulldogs as the top-ranked team in the country. For over six weeks Arkansas has been the No. 1 team team in the country, according to d1baseball.com.
The Razorbacks showed their prowess early and often, but Georgia sure did not help itself with a plethora of walks and errors. Arkansas cruised to a 10-2 victory in their opening game of the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs are now one loss away from being eliminated in the SEC Tournament.
“We certainly didn’t play well enough to make it a good baseball game,” said Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin. “Way too many free bases, we didn’t compete well enough at the plate, we didn’t make plays when we needed to make them and they did.”
The Bulldogs’ offense could not get anything going all night. Arkansas starter Lael Lockhart two-hit the Bulldogs in his seven innings of work. In fact, the Bulldogs were one out away from having a perfect game thrown against them. At the time, Arkansas led 10-0, which could have caused the mercy rule to come into play.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Josh McAllister beat out an infield single for Georgia’s first hit and baserunner of the night. Corey Collins homered as the next batter, which was the only reason the game did not end in seven innings.
Lockhart finished the game with 11 strikeouts in seven innings pitched. He also did not walk a single batter. Heston Tole closed out the last two innings for the Razorbacks.
On the flip side, Georgia’s pitchers struggled mightily all night against a talented Hogs lineup. Starter Charlie Goldstein was pulled in the top of the second inning and Michael Polk did not have much better luck after him. The Razorbacks scored six runs in the inning to take a commanding lead that was never threatened.
The decision to start Goldstein was surprising considering that Stricklin said Liam Sullivan would most likely be the starter. Goldstein has certainly pitched less recently, but with the 11-strikeout performance Sullivan had against Arkansas the first time these two teams played, it was an interesting decision. Stricklin said he wanted Sullivan to pitch on full rest.
Georgia’s pitching staff allowed 14 walks in the game, four of which came with the bases loaded allowing runs to score. When you combine that with seven Arkansas hits, it is not difficult to see why the Razorbacks put so many runs on the board.
“It’s been a pretty big issue and it’s something we’ve got to work on,” said Georgia pitcher Max DeJong on the team’s walks. “We’ve just got to pound the zone.”
Georgia will now have to face the loser of Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs will now officially roll with Liam Sullivan as the starter in that game. With a win, Georgia stays alive for another day in the SEC Tournament and basically guarantees an NCAA Tournament bid. With a loss, Georgia should still be in, but it will not be 100% certain. The first pitch should be thrown around 2 p.m. on Thursday.
“They’re ticked off, they should be,” said Stricklin. “We all are, but we have to turn the page and be ready to go.”