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A ball flies past Georgia’s Ben Anderson (44). The University of Georgia baseball team hosted Santa Clara for game one of the series on Feb. 21, 2020, winning 9-0 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

The No. 3 Georgia baseball team lost to Georgia Southern 6-1 on Wednesday night at J.I. Clements Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia. The loss drops the Bulldogs to 14-4 on the season as they look ahead to their next series against conference rival, top-ranked Florida beginning on March 13. Here are some observations from The Red & Black:

Southern sweeps

Georgia Southern completed the series sweep of the Bulldogs on Wednesday night for the Eagles’ third sweep of the season and giving Georgia its first stretch of three consecutive losses to one team since April 26-28, 2019 against Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs scored four runs total in three games against Southern, a far cry from their season average of over seven runs per contest. 

Last year, the script was flipped. Georgia won two of its three games against head coach Rodney Hennon’s Eagles, but its meager offensive effort over the past week gave Hennon historic career victories numbers 800 and 801.

Bolstered by its performance against the top-five ranked Bulldogs, Georgia Southern has improved to 11-5 on the year. Georgia gears up to play top-ranked Florida on March 13 still licking its wounds from a series sweep by an instate, non-conference foe.  

Similar start to game one

The beginning of the third and final matchup between Georgia and Georgia Southern bore a strong resemblance to game one, which took place back on March 3.

Garrett Brown and Tyler Owens again got the start for the Bulldogs and Eagles respectively, and early errors by the Georgia defense mirrored its sloppy play to begin the series.

A leadoff triple followed by an RBI fielder’s choice gave Georgia Southern its first run of the night. Brown, perhaps worried about leaving balls in the zone, began to throw around the next two batters, living on the outside edge and in the dirt.

His pitch-around strategy worked as he forced a routine grounder to third baseman Garrett Blaylock and a subsequent slicing blooper to shallow right field. Blaylock overthrew first baseman Patrick Sullivan, and right fielder Riley King dropped the fly ball right as he crossed the foul line.

A walk loaded the bases, and Southern threatened to break the game open early, but like the inning-ending double play that kept Brown and the Bulldogs alive in the fourth inning of game one, Georgia turned a timely 4-6-3 double play to keep the deficit at 1-0.

The pitchers’ outings diverged from their first head-to-head shortly after. Owens pitched 6 2/3 innings on March 3 but left the game Wednesday night after three no-hit frames. Brown made it through 3 1/3 innings on Wednesday. He threw 52 pitches and allowed four earned runs off four hits before he was replaced by Justin Glover, who didn’t fare much better.

Relief comes too late

Glover took the mound in the fourth already in a jam. The Bulldogs were down 3-0, and Brown had left a Georgia Southern runner in scoring position for the senior left-hander to manage.

Glover seemed the right man for the job – in 9 2/3 innings this season, he entered Wednesday with a .93 ERA and eight strikeouts. He was only able to make one out against the Eagles, as two hits and two walks extended Georgia Southern’s lead to 6-0.  

In seventeen pitches, Glover threw six strikes. His lacking accuracy not only put men on base but also allowed the Eagles to advance runners and extend their fourth inning streak. A wild pitch scored the Eagles’ fifth run of the game and put their sixth on third base. After a single sent him home, Glover was pulled in favor of freshman Will Childers.

All told, three pitchers recorded one out each in the disastrous fourth, with Childers staying on the hill to throw a much more successful 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

Childers was relieved in turn by fellow freshmen Michael Polk and Cain Tatum. The three final freshman pitchers combined to allow two hits and strike out five in 4 1/3 innings, but their strong relief work was not met by a resurgent Bulldog offense.

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