JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Georgia-Florida rivalry fired up a day early in Jacksonville, Florida, as the Bulldogs and Gators met for a baseball exhibition across the street from TIAA Bank Field on Friday.
The score didn’t really matter, but Georgia ultimately fell 5-3 thanks to a big third inning from the Gators’ offense.
Florida took the lead in the bottom of the third after a bases-loaded double from center fielder Jud Fabian brought in all three runners for the Gators’ first runs of the game. Fabian’s line drive shot almost set off the smoke detector as it rolled all the way to the wall.
Georgia pitcher Brandon Smith was subsequently pulled from the game and replaced by Darryn Pasqua, but he was unable to stop the bleeding as Florida tacked on one more in the third to give them a 5-2 lead.
“[Florida is] really good,” head coach Scott Stricklin said. “They’re a top-10 team. There’s no question about it.”
Center fielder Randon Jernigan made it home twice for Georgia on Friday. After being hit by a pitch in the first inning, Jernigan scored on a wild pitch from Florida’s Tommy Mace.
Jernigan’s leadoff triple in the sixth turned into the Bulldogs’ third run after it was scored on a surrender to short. Jernigan accounted for two of Georgia’s four hits, with second baseman Riley King and right fielder Connor Tate accounting for the other two.
The Bulldogs saw nine pitchers take the mound on Friday, and the Gators used 11. Nearly every pitcher struggled to find the strike zone consistently. Georgia walked five batters compared to Florida’s four, and there were plenty of wild pitches throughout the contest as well. Stricklin said the innacuracy wasn’t suprising.
“It’s Nov. 1,” Stricklin said. “They haven’t thrown a lot in the fall and this is the first time they’ve pitched with adrenaline like this. Both sides will clean it up.”
Georgia swept its three-game series against Florida last season, which was the Bulldogs’ first sweep of the Gators since 2006. Georgia went on to finish 2019 at 46-17 overall and 21-9 in the SEC, while Florida ended the season at 34-26 and 13-17 in conference play.
Georgia and Florida’s football teams are set to face off across the street from the baseball park at TIAA Bank Field on Saturday afternoon in a match that’s likely to determine the winner of the SEC East.
“We’re going to go,” Stricklin said. “It’s a part of this week, and we’re rewarding our players.”
Friday night’s baseball game was Georgia’s second and final exhibition before opening day on Feb. 14, 2020, against Richmond at Foley Field. The Bulldogs defeated Columbus State 18-3 in their first fall exhibition on Oct. 20.