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Diamond Dogs - Stricklin: ‘We didn’t do enough to deserve to win’
Georgia falls 3-2 on opening to the Evansville Purple Aces
During the Bulldogs’ Fall World Series at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
The No. 12 Georgia Bulldogs were upset 3-2 by the Evansville Purple Aces on opening day.
The Bulldogs struggled offensively throughout the entire contest, except for freshman designated hitter Corey Collins. The Suwanee, Ga., native finished with three hits, including two singles and a home run in four at-bats. Senior Cole Tate was the only other Georgia player with more than one hit as he totaled two. Connor Tate and Fernando Gonzalez added one hit each, respectively.
Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin said after the game that he’s proud of how Collins played, despite the loss.
“We all knew that Corey was going to be a middle of the order hitter, there’s no question about it,” Stricklin said when asked if Collins will be moved up in the lineup. “Sometimes as a freshman, you don’t want to put him right there in that three-hole, to begin with. But yeah, he’s going to hit in the middle of the order, no questions about it.”
Stricklin added that the team will see a couple more left-handed pitchers this weekend, so Collins will get his chances.
“I’m happy for him,” Stricklin said". “I’m excited for him and he is a very mature kid for being just 19 years old. He’s got a really good presence about him and he’s going to have a great career in the red and black.”
Georgia starting pitcher C.J. Smith said that the freshman has a good head on his shoulders.
“Corey was outstanding,” Smith said. “He’s probably one of the toughest outs we have on the team right now. He’s seeing the ball really and we’re looking for him to build on that tomorrow. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing this offense come alive tomorrow.”
Smith, who was last year’s Sunday starter, started smoothly through the first two innings, where he retired six of the first seven hitters he faced. In the third, the senior southpaw managed to get the first two Evansville hitters out in the third, but that’s when things started to go wrong.
Evansville’s leadoff hitter, Troy Beilsmith, had a two-out single and then stole second shortly after. Craig Shepherd added another hit that drove in Beilsmith to put Evansville on the board. Smith walked the next two batters and Simon Scherry reached first on an error by Georgia third baseman Garrett Blaylock, which gave the Purple Aces a 2-0 lead.
Smith was pulled after four complete innings, as he finished with four strikeouts, four hits, two runs, two walks and one earned run. Smith mentioned after the game that he didn’t feel like his control of the ball on some pitches, despite Evansville having all that success with two outs.
“I mean, he (the umpire) had a tight strike zone the whole day,” Smith said. “Ultimately it just comes down to me throwing more strikes, being over the plate more and attacking the hitters. It’s about me being better overall. If we’re going to win a lot of games this year, I am going to have to go longer than four innings.”
Evansville’s pitching staff was stout as they held Georgia scoreless for the first four innings. It wasn’t until the fifth when the Bulldogs got a run on Collins’ solo home run, which was the first of his collegiate career. At that point, it was the Suwanee native’s second hit. Collins singled to left in the second inning during his debut at-bat.
Purple Aces’ starting pitcher Shane Gray had an excellent outing against a powerful Bulldog offense. Gray lasted six innings and only threw 77 total pitches. He only surrendered one earned run and four hits while striking out four. The sophomore also didn’t walk a Bulldog batter.
“I give credit to Shane (Gray) for his performance,” Stricklin said. “He really held us and forced us to be off-balanced at times.”
The Bulldogs showed a little life in the bottom of the seventh as Collins had a one-out single. Then, redshirt junior Connor Tate took a hit-by-pitch that gave Georgia runners on first and second. Nevertheless, freshman catcher Fernando Gonzalez hit into a 4-6-3 double play to ruin the Bulldogs’ momentum.
Evansville’s Adam Euler hit a robe that ended in a double with two outs in the eighth. Georgia reliever Darryn Pasqua hurled two wild pitches that let pinch-runner Kenton Crews score to put up the Purple Aces, 3-1. Although, Pasqua retired Brent Ridder to get the final out. In the bottom half of the eighth, the Bulldogs scratched off another run as freshman Parks Harber scored on Cole Tate’s single to right-center.
Those two wild pitches proved to be the difference in the end and it kind of described Georgia’s day as a whole. There were fielding errors, batting miscues, missed opportunities and on-base mishaps. After not playing for nearly 340 days, the Bulldogs dropped the ball, but luckily will have another chance tomorrow as both teams play a doubleheader starting at 2:30 p.m. Then, both squads will play each other again on Sunday in the season finale at noon EST.
“…In a close game, it all comes back to bit you,” Stricklin said. “We had our opportunities, but we didn’t take advantage of them. We have to credit Evansville, who found a way to get it done. They fought hard and we didn’t do enough to deserve to win.”