On a beautiful Friday night at Foley Field, the Georgia Bulldogs lost 7-4 in their opening game of a three-game series against the North Florida Ospreys. Georgia had previously won six in a row at home, but could not muster up enough offense in the later innings to take momentum of the game.
It seemed Georgia was ready to take control of the game from the start, leading off the bottom of the first with three-straight singles. The third hit in that sequence came from freshman Corey Collins giving him his seventh RBI on the season. Georgia ended up leaving the bases loaded in the first, which ended up proving costly.
Walks have consistently been the problem for Georgia’s pitching staff early in the season. Senior C.J. Smith got the start for the Bulldogs following a strong outing last week against Gardner-Webb. An error and a walk in the top of the second inning led to Austin Bogart launching a three-run home run to give North Florida a 3-2 lead, which changed the feel of the game in seconds.
Smith ended up walking a batter to start the third inning as well. That runner ended up coming in to score on a two-out RBI single. Smith (0-2) finished the night pitching four innings, tallying three earned runs – four total, three strikeouts and three walks. He was also the losing pitcher.
“He just lost the feel for the breaking ball; he lost the changeup,” said Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin. “There were a couple borderline pitches that he didn’t get, and that’s baseball. He’s a guy who’s not going to throw 95 [mph] by you, he’s got to be able to locate. He just didn’t have the best command of that today.”
Georgia still had opportunities offensively to make up for Smith’s lackluster day on the mound. The Bulldogs loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Buddy Floyd hit a shallow pop up to center field, which Shane Marshall tried to score on. Marshall was thrown out at the plate on a great play from the Ospreys’ center fielder. That led to two on base, with two outs. Ben Anderson then struck out moments later, leaving Georgia scoreless for the inning.
“I knew when [Scott] Daeley told me to go, it has to be a perfect throw right here in order to get me out,” said Marshall. “Kid made a great throw, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Georgia’s bullpen also struggled a bit on Friday night. Freshman Luke Wagner came in and had a very rough go of things, only facing three batters before being pulled. Another freshman Will Pearson came in and was the star of the night for the Bulldogs’ bullpen. Pearson threw three scoreless innings, only giving up two hits.
Nolan Crisp came on following Pearson and gave up two runs in the ninth inning after a scoreless eighth frame, extending North Florida’s lead to three runs. The Florida transfer has struggled so far in Athens, posting an 8.59 ERA so far this season. One of the runs he gave up was a solo home run to North Florida’s Alex Kachler, who hit two home runs on the night – both without batting gloves.
The Bulldogs (7-3) will now face the same situation they were in two weeks ago against Evansville. They will have to win a series after dropping the opener. Georgia will throw star pitcher Ryan Webb on Saturday, who should see more action than he did a week ago. The first pitch is set for 1 p.m.