It would be easy to say that UGA shouldn’t be losing to mid-majors like the College of Charleston in their season opener, but the reality is unkind to the young team.
Coach Stricklin said this about his team after the game, “They’re good players, they’re talented, they’re going to get better as they go. We expect big things from this group. This game isn’t going to define us, it’s game one. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to go certainly, but we’ll come back and battle tomorrow. There’s a lot to look forward to with this group, unfortunately we didn’t see it tonight.”
Sophomore starter Kevin Smith struck out the first two batters, the third batter advanced to first on a catcher interference but Smith put the inning to rest with his third strikeout. While an ideal start for the Dawgs, they would be unable to repeat an inning like this the rest of the evening.
The lineup for the Dawgs looked slightly different than expected, without Keegan McGovern in left field due to illness. The absence of McGovern opened the door for freshmen Tucker Bradley to get the start in left and the honor of batting leadoff for UGA.
Followed by Cam Shephard in the two-hole, both freshmen clocked in quality at bats – working the count and making good contact, but to no reward as both were retired.
McGovern’s absence in left was felt in the second as Bradley attempted a diving catch on a bad angle that allowed the runner from first to score and the batter to third.
College of Charleston took the early 1-0 in the top of the second.
Smith had a tough day at the office, having to battle from the stretch a runner on the base paths in every inning. Through the first three innings he kept the Cougars at bay, but in the fourth inning, signs of the game unraveling for UGA reared its head.
Last season, the Dawgs threw 70 wild pitches to their opponents 30. Giving up a difference of 40 bags to the opponents without making them earn it contributed to the losing season.
The Dawgs should no signs of improvement in that department in game one, throwing six wild pitches that catalyzed the Cougars offense all evening.
The most detrimental wild pitches happened twice in one at-bat. The first advanced a runner from second to third, and the second walked the batter and scored the runner from third. Last season Smith only threw three wild pitches all year, so matching his season total in the first four innings of the first appearance this season is not encouraging.
Start the list of things Georgia did wrong on Friday with “wild pitches.”
Between the fourth and sixth innings, things went from bad to worse as Charleston raked whatever the Georgia pitchers threw.
The fifth inning started with a good defensive play by Aaron Schunk, but rushing the throw made it difficult for Talley to scoop out of the dirt. The throwing error and subsequent baserunner got the Charleston going again.
Add “fielding miscues” to list of things Georgia needs to work.
After the first runner got on, the next followed by poking a liner between second and first and the third batter ripped a liner between short and third. The Cougars chipped away at the Dawgs' starter with multiple liners between the positions, and Smith would leave the game after just 4.1 innings pitched with the Dawgs facing a 4-1 deficit.
The Cougars would blast the game wide open in the fifth and sixth innings, coming one plate appearance short of batting around the order in both innings. When the bullpen, or for that matter any of the pitchers, allow eight batters in back to back innings, chances are slim you make it out of the frames still within striking distance.
Add “bullpen unable to get out of jams and get batters out” to the ongoing list.
After retiring 12 batters in a row, the Dawgs’ bats finally showed some life against Bailey Ober. Shephard’s infield single got things going as Will Campbell drove him home with a double blasted to the wall. Campbell was driven home with Michael Curry’s outfield single.
The Dawgs cut the 8-1 deficit to 8-3. While the offense finally showed life, the Dawgs buried themselves into too deep a hole with the damage done in the 5th and 6th innings.
Add “fix offensive lulls” to the list.
The Dawgs had one last chance in the bottom of the eighth to make the Cougars wary of their 8-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth. With runners on first and second and one out, the rally hopes were dashed with a well-executed 6-3 double-play.
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Charleston added another run and closed the door in the bottom of the ninth to win 9-3.