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Georgia redshirt junior Connor Tate (23) watches a pitch fly by while trying to get from first to second base. The University of Georgia baseball team beat South Carolina 5-3 in the first game of their three-game series on April 2, 2021, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

Georgia baseball defeated No. 14 South Carolina 5-3 on Friday night at Foley Field in the first game of their weekend series. The Bulldogs advanced to 18-7 on the season with Friday’s win. Georgia seeks the series win on Saturday at 2 p.m. for the second game in the three-game series. Here are some observations from The Red & Black:

Starter success, subpar relieving 

Redshirt junior Thomas Farr, South Carolina’s starting pitcher, had a successful night on the mound in his seventh start of the 2021 season.

Despite allowing one hit in each of the six innings that he pitched, only one Georgia run scored while Farr was on the mound. His one allowed hit in the bottom of the fourth inning was a solo home run by Connor Tate, putting the Bulldogs on the board.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Farr allowed a leadoff double by Josh McAllister, who then advanced to third base on a wild pitch. After a pop-up by Riley King and a strikeout by Parks Harber, Farr was relieved by redshirt sophomore Julian Bosnic.

Farr threw 78 total pitches in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits, two runs and forced seven Georgia strikeouts.

“They struck us out a little bit, which we knew was going to happen with their power arms, but we hung in there and drew some walks,” said head coach Scott Stricklin.

Bosnic had an unfortunate start to his night, allowing the first batter he faced, Corey Collins, to hit an RBI-single as McAllister reached home. Farr was responsible for the second run of the inning.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Georgia freshman Fernando Gonzalez hit a leadoff double before Bosnic was relieved. He faced four batters and recorded only one out. 

South Carolina’s redshirt junior Andrew Peters was the third pitcher and final of the night, entering the game with no outs and one runner on second in the bottom of the seventh.

Peters allowed Georgia to score two in the seventh and one in the eighth despite only one hit by the Bulldogs in each inning. He faced 11 batters and walked two, and allowed two hits.

The Bulldogs’ single run in the eighth inning wrapped up the game as South Carolina was unable to produce a run in the top of the ninth.

Georgia had not recorded runs in four separate innings since March 9 against Georgia Southern.

“We needed to be the tougher team, and we found a way to be that today,” Stricklin said. “That’s a really good team we just beat. … I think they’re a legit top-10 team.”

Pitching in numbers

The Bulldogs used eight different pitchers in nine innings in their first game of the series versus South Carolina.

Stricklin said that a “bullpen day” was the plan for Georgia’s defense on Friday night.

Georgia’s Friday starter Luke Wagner pitched three innings, allowing one hit and one run. He was relieved from the game in the top of the fourth inning after he threw four balls in a row to walk the inning’s leadoff batter, Josiah Sightler. 

“The four-pitch walk sped [Wagner’s removal] up a little bit,” Stricklin said. “When … you have to face one of the best hitters in the country in Wes Clarke, we thought that was a good time to make the change.”

Wagner was relieved by freshman Will Pearson, who allowed two runs in his first inning as he gave up a three-run home run to the Gamecocks’ David Mendham. Wagner was responsible for one of the three runs because he allowed the runner to reach base.

After South Carolina’s home run, Georgia did not allow another run to score through its next five innings and six pitchers.

Jack Gowen, Nolan Crisp, Collin Caldwell, Michael Polk, Darryn Pasqua and Ben Harris threw a combined five innings and only allowed three hits. Their combined zero walks or errors also assisted in leading Georgia to the 5-3 win.

Polk recorded the win and Harris recorded the save on Friday. Stricklin said that a game where so many players combine for the win gives the bullpen confidence.

“The biggest thing is that [a game like tonight] raises their confidence level,” Stricklin said. “We need all those guys. When you throw eight guys out there on a Friday night in the SEC against a top-10 team and they all do their job … it gives those guys confidence.”

Stricklin’s return

Stricklin made his return tonight versus South Carolina after missing eight straight games due to a positive COVID-19 test on March 19.

Stricklin was able to return to practice yesterday, and he said he wanted to give a good message as he came back.

“Toughness was the theme of practice yesterday, my first day back,” said Stricklin. “I jolted them a little bit. I don’t think they expected it. … It had been two weeks, I kind of needed it a little bit.”

King said that he thinks Stricklin’s message at practice assisted them in their Friday night comeback.

“That was his message: being the tougher team,” King said. “We’ve lost some games that were close, and some games that we should have won, but a lot of them come down to a lot of toughness.”

Redshirt junior Darryn Pasqua said Georgia players were excited to have their head coach back in the dugout with them.

“I’ve never been more excited for a coach to be back and yelling at umpires in the dugout. It gets everyone fired up and gets everyone in the game early,” Pasqua said.

Stricklin was not shy in the dugout in his first game back, arguing with the home plate umpire on pitch calls consistently throughout the night.

The head coach said that he was impressed with Georgia’s play on both sides of the ball in its first Friday night win of the 2021 season.

After the game, the team had their usual meeting in right field to wrap up the night. Tonight, there was a roar from the players before they broke apart.

“I congratulated them on a Friday night win, and maybe I was a little bit colorful about it,” Stricklin said of the cheering.