There are not many more fulfilling moments for a baseball team than a walk-off hit to win a weekend series. That is exactly what happened for the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday when Chaney Rogers hit a laser over the right field fence to win the game 7-4 and the series 2-1 over the North Florida Ospreys. It was not the most beautiful performance from the Bulldogs, who trailed for most of the game. But their offense came through when it mattered most.
“When their best guys came in, our guys really really were good,” said Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin. “I thought we had great at-bats the last three innings, and just found a way to win the game.”
Georgia started freshman pitcher Jaden Woods, who showed the potential of things to come during his time in Athens. Woods finished a career-high 5.2 innings, striking out seven batters and walking four. Woods showed good velocity on his fastball and control on his command for most of his outing.
He gave up a two-run shot to North Florida’s Alex Kachler, who homered three times throughout the series. Kachler clearly left his impact, because he also walked three times on Sunday. Woods then got into some trouble in the sixth inning, allowing runners on first and second, one of which later scored when Jack Gowen entered. Overall though, it was a promising performance for Woods who established himself as a contributor while some of the more experienced pitchers have battled with injuries.
Georgia has been battle-tested so far in non-conference play with close games. Sunday marked the third walk-off win of the season for the Bulldogs in just 12 total games. Surely Georgia players and coaches would prefer to blow out non-conference opponents, but the adversity they have faced with both injuries and close games could help as SEC play approaches.
“When you overcome adversity, you feel pretty good about it,” said Stricklin. “When you have so many kids go out there, you’re gonna have some ups and downs. You’re gonna have some tough moments, but we put our kids in tough situations. Adversity, it helps you grow… it makes you stronger.”
Because of multiple injuries to infielders such as Cole Tate, Buddy Floyd and Josh McAllister, redshirt-freshman Kameron Guidry ended up getting his first two starts of his career at shortstop this weekend. Guidry had two hits and an RBI in three plate appearances on Sunday, while also playing solid defense. Freshman Colin Caldwell also came into pitch in a high-leverage situation in the eighth inning with the bases loaded. Caldwell forced a double play ball that got Georgia out of a jam and kept the game tied late in the game.
Guidry talked about his approach to staying ready despite not getting much playing time before this series:
“It’s a lot of visualisation that has to go into it, because you don’t get those reps all the time,” said Guidry. “Mentally, just already having an outcome that you want and then [you] make it happen.”
Walks were one the biggest reasons for the game even being as competitive as it was. Georgia’s pitching staff combined for nine total walks, which led to three out of four of the Ospreys’ runs. Luckily for the Bulldogs, their pitchers did a sufficient job of getting out of jams, leaving nine North Florida runners on base. That is an issue that Stricklin will most certainly want to clean up before conference play though.
Next, Georgia (9-3) will travel to Statesboro on Tuesday to face Georgia Southern at 5 p.m. before coming back to Athens to kick off a three-game set against Lipscomb starting on March 12. Stricklin announced that Jonathan Cannon will make his season debut on Tuesday, and will be on a pitch count.