By Peter Bartlett

The start to a new season of college baseball was ripe with anticipation this weekend in Georgia, as new head coach Wes Johnson was set to begin his time in Athens with a three game homestand against the UNC Asheville Bulldogs. The UGA Bulldogs rose to the occasion and swept the series with an offensive explosion in all three games.

Georgia began their season in convincing fashion on Friday, with an 11-2 victory in Foley Field. Left-handed pitcher Charlie Goldstein toed the slab to start and contributed a 4.0 inning body of work with seven strikeouts and just one earned run allowed. Relievers Kolten Smith and Jarvis Evans helped close the game out from there only allowing one more run and striking out an additional seven.

The bats were alive and well too, as Slate Alford hit two home runs and notched five RBIs. Dylan Goldstein pinch hit for a home run as well and Logan Jordan picked up two RBIs from his DH position.

The fireworks continued in game two on Saturday afternoon, as UGA blew out UNC Asheville 17-5, leading to the mercy rule being called in the bottom of the 8th inning. Christian Mrcana got the start and worked four strong innings, surrendering one earned run off just two hits and striking out four. UGA would utilize a bevy of relievers including Brian Zeldin, Blake Gellipsie, Max Dejong, Brandt Prancer, and Chandler Marsh to help get them to the finish line.  The bullpen allowed four more earned runs and struck out eight.

The offense hit their stride in full effect in game two, headlined by outfielder Logan Jordan hitting two home runs. Alford and Goldstein both added another home run to their stat sheets. Dillon Carter and Fernando Gonzalez followed suit, both hitting homers themselves. The Dawgs were patient at the plate, drawing eight walks, giving their roaring offense plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. In fact, the Bulldogs scored in seven of the eight innings played in game two.

The highlight of the day was a home run blast off Alford’s bat in the bottom of the eighth that resulted in three runs and the game being called due to the mercy rule.

The excitement continued with the series wrap up game on Sunday afternoon, as the Bulldogs continued their domination with a 10-0 victory over UNC Asheville. Leighton Finley got the start and continued the strong performance from the rotation lasting 4.0 innings, striking out five and not surrendering a single run. Josh Roberge would take the Dawgs the rest of the way, striking out three more and keeping the UNC Asheville Bulldogs scoreless in a shutout performance. 

The offense stayed hot in game three with Alford picking up three more RBIs and Charlie Condon getting in on the action with three hits and one RBI himself. In the third inning the Dawgs once again showed excellent plate discipline, allowing for four runners to be walked in all with two outs in the inning.

The headlining moment of this game was a brilliant catch on a pop fly out made by Condon in left field. Condon flashed the leather, falling headfirst into the UNC Asheville bullpen while still holding onto the baseball and getting the final out in the sixth.

The game was called due to the mercy rule in the seventh inning after Paul Toetz hit an RBI single to score a run from third, extending the lead to 10.

It was a near-perfect opening weekend for the Georgia Bulldogs who now sit 3-0. They scored in 16 of 23 offensive innings and played a relatively clean game defensively as well, only recording two errors. 

They will continue the 2024 season with their first road game this Tuesday, as they head to Atlanta to face the Georgia State Panthers. The game will begin at 3:00 p.m.