The UGA baseball team in the dugout at Foley Field on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, in Athens, Georgia. Georgia fell to Jacksonville State, 8-5, in the 2023 season opener. (Photo/Landen Todd @whats_landophoto)

Georgia baseball faced South Carolina on SEC opening weekend, losing both games 5-4 and 12-2. As a result, Georgia also loses the series itself, its first series loss of the season.

“You lose that first one. You know, that's baseball,” head coach Scott Stricklin said. “It happens and it's really tough to lose that one. But then you got to be able to bounce back and we didn't do a very good job of bouncing back.”

The first game, which was intended to be the second of the series, but was moved to be the first game of a doubleheader due to poor weather on Friday, was tight the whole way.

Jaden Woods, who had been stellar in previous matchups, put out a strong performance. Despite retiring the first three batters in the first inning, he allowed two runs in the second. He allowed a second solo shot home run in the fourth.

Despite the three allowed runs, Woods tied his career-high of 11 strikeouts and pitched in a career-high seven innings, retiring several Gamecocks and keeping them off the base for the most part.

“He [Woods] really set up that game and for us to see that down the stretch,” Parks Harber said. “Innings four, five, six were huge for him to minimize their damage to keep us in the game. I was really happy with the way he pitched. I think he gutted it out a little bit and that's what the good ones do.”

His reliever, Chandler Marsh allowed two runners on base and was quickly relieved afterward. Freshman Matthew Hoskins came in and played well. Despite two South Carolina runners on base, a strikeout and a 6-4-3 double play got Georgia cleanly out of the inning. Hoskins faltered at the top of the ninth inning, allowing a two-run double, which gave South Carolina a 5-4 lead.

Amidst a strong Woods performance, Georgia’s offense was less effective than it traditionally had been. Georgia was quiet throughout the first five innings, aside from a Corey Collins 360-foot homerun.

Georgia got things moving in the sixth and seventh innings. A two-run 436-foot homerun from Harber tied things up 3-3. In the seventh, catcher Fernando Gonzalez hit a double to the corner in right field. He advanced to home, including a slide directly under the catcher to give Georgia a 4-3 lead.

After the Gamecocks had taken the lead in the ninth, Georgia had an opportunity to tie up or win the ballgame. After a Sebastian Murillo double, Connor Tate, who had gone 0-4 on the day at that point, stepped up with a chance to win the ball game. However, he grounded out to second, leaving the Bulldogs with their first SEC loss.

“I thought Jaden was outstanding and deserved to win,” Stricklin said. “He was right there. We score the run in the bottom of the seventh to take the lead. He was on line for the win. And just unfortunately, we didn't get it done together.”

In the second game, things started promising but quickly grew sour.

Liam Sullivan started the game with a 1-2-3 inning and kept South Carolina scoreless through two innings. Sullivan then allowed four runs in the third inning, including a two-run home run. After allowing two runners on base in the fourth, he was replaced.

The pitching woes only got worse. Zach DeVito, who replaced Sullivan in the fourth, and Nolan Crisp, who relieved DeVito, together allowed seven runs on 10 batters in the fifth inning. Luke Wagner entered in the sixth and pitched two straight scoreless innings, but the damage had already been done.

The Bulldogs’ offense started out promising as well. In the second inning, Harber hit a solo shot home run and gave them a 1-0 lead early. Then, they went scoreless for the next three innings, before scoring a run in the bottom of the sixth.

Georgia will face South Carolina once again on Sunday, March 19 at 3 p.m.

“We gotta fight tomorrow,” Stricklin said. “...Tomorrow, we gotta turn the page and play it like it’s our last game and do everything we can.”