Georgia (18-8, 3-5) started Saturday’s game looking to clinch its first SEC series of the year. The Bulldogs played like it for the first two innings as well. However, momentum can arguably shift faster in baseball than any other sport. The Bulldogs learned that the hard way during a game that lasted well over three hours on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams went through a plethora of emotions that come when there are 20 total runs scored in a game. South Carolina’s offense just proved to be too powerful in the Gamecocks’ 13-7 win.
“It’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster but you try and stay as even-keeled as you can in this game and not really ride the highs or lows,” said Georgia’s Garrett Blaylock. “That’s what we’re going to do moving forward, trying to win a series tomorrow.”
Georgia’s Ryan Webb struck out the first five South Carolina batters of the day, with an excellent mix of fastballs and breaking pitches. Parks Harber added a monster home run to left center field, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead early. South Carolina responded immediately with a two-run shot in the top of the third inning that put the Gamecocks on top 2-1.
Webb gave up three home runs in his six innings pitched, which contributed to him giving up six earned runs. Although it was nowhere near Webb’s best outing, he did record eight strikeouts while only walking one batter. Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin noted he thought Webb was throwing his changeup a touch too hard in this outing.
“I felt like I had pretty good stuff today,” said Webb. “But, when you make mistakes against a team like that, they capitalize on those mistakes. It was just one of those days where the ball was flying and it seemed like every time they barrelled up a ball, it went over the fence or found a gap.”
South Carolina starter Brannon Jordan dominated on Saturday, especially in the first six innings. Jordan matched a career-high 11 strikeouts and did not allow a hit other than the home run to Harber. Georgia finally started being more patient at the plate, forcing three walks against Brannen in the seventh inning. He had not walked a batter up to that point.
Those walks chased Brannen out of the inning and helped Georgia start a rally that led to five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Riley King even had the bases loaded with two outs while only trailing 8-6, but he grounded out to end the inning, and Georgia never truly threatened again.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge, but we didn’t compete enough,” said Stricklin. “In those first six innings, we weren’t competitive enough. When you play a team that is that good, you’ve got to compete better than that.”
Relievers Jaden Woods and Liam Sullivan both struggled as well. The Gamecocks combined for five runs in the final two innings of the game. This put the lead that Georgia had worked so hard to chip away at, back to a comfortable margin for South Carolina. Two of those runs came on a home run by Wes Clarke, who leads the country with 15 homers.
That sets up a rubber matchup for what will probably be Georgia’s most important game of the year on Sunday. The Bulldogs will throw the usual Sunday starter Jonathan Cannon, and make no mistake about it, they will need him to be at his best. If Georgia loses a third-straight SEC series, it could be hard for the Bulldogs to recover, especially with a grueling upcoming schedule.