– By Sam Nichols
Georgia baseball opened up the 2023 season against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks and walked away series victors.
After losing to UNC and VCU in Chapel Hill in the NCAA regional tournament in 2022, the Bulldogs looked to have a strong start in 2023.
Things didn’t go that way for Georgia in its season opener, losing by a score of 8-5 to JSU.
Junior pitcher Jaden Woods got the call to take the bump on Friday night. Woods exited the game after pitching two innings, giving up four earned runs and walking five batters. The pitching staff handed out a combined eight walks and five HBP, which was a major disappointment for 10th-year head coach Scott Stricklin.
“Very frustrating to see that… At the end of the day, we have got to cut down on the free passes, and if we don’t, it’s going to be tough to win games. Offensively, we are going to score runs but it’s pretty hard to combat that when you’re giving up too many free passes,” said Stricklin.
Georgia bounced back on Saturday afternoon to even the series 1-1, defeating the Gamecocks 10-3.
Junior Liam Sullivan took the mound for game two. Sullivan lasted three innings, surrendering three hits, walking one, and watching three Gamecocks cross the plate during his outing.
The Bulldogs showed off their offensive power and keen eye at the plate in game two with nine hits and eight walks.
Junior Parks Harber and redshirt freshman Charlie Condon led the charge, with Harber belting his first home run of the season and Condon tallying a bases-loaded double in the eighth inning.
Georgia first baseman/third baseman Parks Harber. (Tony Walsh/UGAAA)
“We know we’ve got what it takes to win, pitching staff and bats. We’re obviously going to put up a lot of runs from the offensive side and we’ve got faith in our starting pitchers. Haven’t had two great starts so far but we know they’re going to bounce back and be ready to go,” said Condon.
Georgia headed into the rubber match on Sunday hoping to come out with a series win. They were able to do so, overcoming JSU by a score of 10-5.
The offense was once again the story for the Bulldogs in game three. The 1- 4 hitters in the lineup collectively went 8-16 with six RBIs and five runs scored.
“Our offensive philosophy is ‘just hit the ball hard.’ That’s what we did today, and that’s what we did yesterday… [the coaching staff] told us before the game to just be ourselves. We’re here for a reason,” said graduate transfer Mason LaPlante, who batted in the leadoff spot Sunday.
Freshman Blake Gillespie got the start, mirroring Sullivan and exiting after three innings pitched. He gave up six hits and two walks, leading to five earned runs for the Gamecocks. He was followed by a crew of relievers led by senior Nolan Crisp, who pitched 3.1 innings, giving up two hits and two walks.
“Nolan was really, really good. That’s what we hope to see, whether he’s starting or coming out of the ‘pen, that’s exactly what you need,” said Coach Stricklin.
Georgia will welcome Princeton University to Foley Field on Friday, Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. ET to kick off a four-game series.