Georgia baseball beat Evansville 4-1 at Foley Field on Sunday to give the Bulldogs their third win of the season and the series victory. Georgia will continue its season at Georgia State on Wednesday. Here are some observations from The Red & Black.
Strategic offense gives the edge
When you can’t get anything going in the batter’s box, you have to get creative. Georgia did that trailing 1-0 in the third inning.
Georgia’s nine-hitter, second baseman Buddy Floyd, got the Bulldogs started with an infield single. Center fielder Randon Jernigan followed with a would-be sacrifice bunt that died a few feet in front of the plate. It became another single, bringing up shortstop Cole Tate with two on and no one out.
“Our guys did a great job — we laid down some really great bunts to challenge them,” said head coach Scott Stricklin in a virtual postgame press conference. “But it’s one of those things: If you lay down a bunt, and they struggle to field it, well, just do it again.”
The Bulldogs did. Tate showed bunt again, eventually laying one down the third baseline and causing an Evansville scramble that yielded two throwing errors.
Tate was safe at first off a wide throw, and Floyd, taking advantage of the error, burst toward home. The throw home was again wide, hitting the backstop as Floyd touched the plate to tie the game. Georgia would tack on another run with a sac fly to secure an early 2-1 advantage.
“We always focus on doing your job — once you get people in scoring position, we don’t want to leave them out there,” said right fielder Connor Tate. “So, whenever we can bunt, we’ll bunt, move them over and have trust in the people behind us to score them.”
The small ball pattern emerged again in the seventh. Redshirt junior third baseman Josh McAllister began the inning with a single and took off for second while Floyd laid down a sacrifice bunt. McAllister didn’t slow down, beating Evansville’s throw to land on third base with one out. Another sac fly gave Georgia a solid 3-1 cushion late.
Strategic hitting, speed and heads-up running proved the difference in giving Georgia the series win.
Sloppy to start
Georgia starter Charlie Goldstein threw six consecutive balls to start his outing. A subsequent mound visit calmed the debuting redshirt freshman, who then forced three fly balls to get out of the inning.
But poor pitching to leadoff batters characterized Georgia’s afternoon.
Evansville’s leadoff hitter reached base in each of the first five innings, four times from walks. In the prior three games of the series, Georgia failed to get Evansville’s first batter out a combined eight times (including two homeruns).
“Getting the leadoff out is very important,” said freshman relief pitcher Will Pearson. “And we harp on that a bunch during practice, during inter-squads, all through fall-ball. … It wasn’t our best today or this weekend.”
Although Evansville moved a runner to second base with one or no outs in four different innings, they capitalized just once. In the third, Evansville hit two sac flies with a man on second to advance him home. Luckily for Georgia, the Purple Aces went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and secured only one hit all day.
While not damaging today, sloppy starts to innings are a trend Georgia pitchers want to avoid, particularly against sturdier offensive opponents.
“But I think as the season progresses, we’ll be able to pick that up as it’s extremely important, especially as you get into conference play,” Pearson said.
Center fielder Ben Anderson wasn’t in his familiar leadoff spot Sunday. Jernigan opened for the Bulldogs instead. He came through in the one-spot, getting on base in both his plate appearances and scoring the go-ahead run in the third inning.
With Anderson’s poor 1-for-11 showing over Friday and Saturday, head coach Scott Stricklin said he needed to see the game “from a different angle.” Stricklin planned to put Anderson in against a right-handed pitcher, which he did in the seventh inning. In for Jernigan, Anderson managed to grab an RBI on a sacrifice fly.
“He just needed to slow down a little bit,” Stricklin said. “And I think his last few at-bats have been pretty positive. … So, I think you can start to see him get some momentum, but [his absence] was nothing more than that.”
Other changes dotted Georgia’s Sunday lineup. Connor Tate moved into the four-spot after batting sixth and then fifth on Friday and Saturday. Freshman Corey Collins, who batted fifth in game one and cleanup in Game 2, stayed in the three-spot for a consecutive game. McAllister also stuck around at third base after replacing an error-prone Garrett Blaylock for Saturday’s doubleheader.
Tate, batting two spots behind his twin brother Cole, tacked on another hit and drove in a run to bring his season total to seven hits and three RBIs in 12 at-bats. His .583 batting average is Georgia’s best.
Like Game 3, Collins couldn’t repeat his production from Games 1 and 2 on Sunday. Stricklin said he wanted to give Collins more experience before moving him up in the batting order, but the switch may have come too soon.
Batting fifth or fourth this weekend, Collins got on base six times in seven plate appearances. Batting third, he got on three times in eight appearances.
McAllister remained error-free at third base and scored his first run of the season to close out his opening series.