The Georgia Bulldogs’ baseball team returned to the diamond for the first time since March 11, 2020. The excitement was in the air, both between players and fans who had waited so long for the “Diamond ‘Dawgs” to finally be in action again. Students packed the houses in right field as usual, and all felt right again as the first pitch approached.
Unfortunately for UGA fans, the excitement they felt probably reached a peak in the second inning. Georgia fell behind 2-0 in the third inning and never recovered, losing to Evansville 3-2. Shane Gray picked up the win for the Golden Aces, and C.J. Smith received the loss for the Bulldogs.
“I think we were all really anxiously awaiting this day to get here, and it’s just disappointing we didn’t play as well as we would have liked to have played,” said Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin.
C.J. Smith got the start for Georgia as Stricklin opted to go with the senior for the opener to give the Bulldogs some experience. Smith cruised through the first two innings but then ran into trouble. Evansville was able to do all of its damage with two outs in the third inning. A two-out RBI single by Craig Shepherd was preceded by two walks, which then led to an error by third baseman Garrett Blaylock when he could not cleanly field a ground ball, allowing a second run in the inning to score.
“We have to maintain our focus all the way through the inning,” said Smith. “Obviously with two outs, it’s huge to get that next guy out and not let them continue an inning and drive up the pitch count like they did today.”
Smith finished four innings, giving up two runs, four strikeouts and two walks. Smith seemed to be comfortable with his breaking balls and off-speed pitches, especially in the first two innings. Ben Harris, Darryn Pasqua and Jack Gowen all pitched in relief, and for the most part found success. Georgia’s pitchers totaled 14 strikeouts as a unit.
Once again though, Evansville was able to get its third run on a rally with two outs in the seventh inning. Adam Euler doubled to right center field and was replaced by Kenton Crews as a runner. Crews advanced to third and then scored on multiple wild pitches within the same at-bat. That run ended up being the deciding factor in the ballgame.
Georgia’s offense was quiet for most of the day, but received some life from freshman designated hitter Corey Collins. Collins has been ranked as high as No. 65 on MLB.com’s “Top 200 professional prospects for the 2020 MLB Draft.” Collins went 3-4 on the day including a home run to right center and a long single to straight-away right that nearly left the park as well.
“After that first pitch I took, I felt at home,” said Collins. “I just put a good swing on it and that’s all I ask for.”
The Bulldogs had a chance to take control of the game in the seventh inning, with runners on first and second and only one out. However, freshman catcher Fernando Gonzalez hit into a 4-6-3 double play that ended that opportunity. Georgia will need more on offense tomorrow as they face the experienced Purple Aces again for a doubleheader starting at noon.
Both games will be seven innings and Georgia will be starting true freshman pitchers in both games. Luke Wagner will start the first game, followed by Jaden Woods in the second game.