The Georgia baseball team lost to South Carolina 5-1 on Sunday in the final game of its weekend series in Athens. The Bulldogs drop to 18-9 on the season and 3-6 in SEC play, still searching for their first conference series win. Georgia’s next game is scheduled for Tuesday against Georgia Southern at 5 p.m. Here are some observations from The Red & Black:
South Carolina's power offense
South Carolina extended its Foley Field home run onslaught when junior Brady Allen took Georgia starter Jonathan Cannon deep over the left field wall on the first pitch of the game.
Cannon rebounded to strike out two of the next three batters and sat down nine straight in a four-inning stretch largely characterized by control and composure. Through that time, he held the 14th-ranked Gamecocks to just one run on three hits.
But trouble struck again in the top of the fifth when South Carolina’s eighth-place hitter Colin Burgess lifted a two-out solo shot out of the park, this time to left-center field. South Carolina’s George Callil followed Burgess with a single, and one batter later was driven in by a two-run home run from Allen, his second of the day. The Bulldogs exited the fifth inning down 4-1.
“First pitch of the game, tough one,” Cannon said. “But I got back in and I felt really good throwing through the first three or four innings, and then I think they just made some good swings on some bad pitches. I made a couple mistakes there in the fifth inning and they didn’t miss them.”
Georgia’s bullpen quartet of Michael Polk, Collin Caldwell, Nolan Crisp and Ben Harris combined for four innings of one-run, one-hit baseball, and largely subdued the powerful Gamecock lineup through the ninth.
“If you go down their order, everybody is dangerous, it’s a scary lineup to pitch to” said Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin. “They’re going to make some noise this year. It’s a really good team.”
Georgia’s offense registered eight hits on the day, two of which went for doubles and one for a triple, but none of the Bulldogs' balls left the yard.
Not only did Georgia’s hits stay in play, but the Bulldogs’ offensive production was spread over eight innings that put little stress on the Gamecock defense. Georgia’s lone run came in the third inning on the heels of a one-out triple from Ben Anderson. Cole Tate knocked in Anderson with a fielder's choice ground ball.
Georgia rallies were sparse. The Bulldogs had two hits in the first and third inning and only one in the fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth.
Offensive momentum stalled through short at-bats and efficient pitching from South Carolina starter Will Sanders who often gained a quick 0-1 advantage in the count.
“I think mostly, it’s more just kind of keeping the same approach, no matter the situation,” Anderson said. “I think maybe we press a little too hard with runners in scoring position, so overall maybe we should relax a little with runners in scoring position and put a good swing on it.”
Georgia mounted a ninth-inning comeback attempt after the inning’s leadoff hitter was hit by a pitch and Garrett Blaylock’s double to left field put runners on second and third with no outs. But the only truly stressful inning that the Bulldogs could muster came too late, and the next three batters were retired in order to end the game.
“It’s disappointing to lose. It’s disappointing to lose at home, especially when you win on Friday and have the chance to win a series,” Stricklin said. “We just couldn’t get it done.”
Freshman right-hander Will Sanders started on the bump for South Carolina, and delivered his longest career outing to-date, going eight innings.
Sanders finished his day with one earned-run, four strikeouts and the win. His success came early in counts, and was effective in managing soft contact from the Georgia bats.
“With Sanders, our left-handers especially, they swung a lot early and he did a great job of throwing that change up first pitch to keep them off balance,” Stricklin said. “Tip your hat to Sanders. He made some really quality pitches on the first pitch to get some quick outs.”
The Gamecock starter successfully navigated a third-inning triple that led to Georgia’s first and only run, but never allowed more than two runners on base in any inning.
“It was either out number one or 0-1 [in the count],” said Stricklin on Sanders’ ability to command the zone early in at-bats. “He was throwing a lot of strikes, and when you do that, it just makes it a whole lot easier.”
Perhaps Sanders’ only disappointment on the day was his inability to complete the game. Back-to-back baserunners chased Sanders from the top of the ninth, but neither came across to score. Lefty Julian Bosnic closed out the final three innings of the frame.