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Georgia baseball gears up for series with No. 1 Arkansas
The Bulldogs are on a two-game losing skid as they head to Fayetteville
Georgia pitcher Liam Sullivan (14) during a game against Auburn at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Photo by Rob Davis)
After dropping two games to Auburn last weekend, the Georgia baseball team heads west of Athens to take on No. 1-ranked Arkansas for a three-game series in Fayetteville.
Last month, Georgia (27-16, 10-11) traveled to Nashville and won two of three over Vanderbilt, who was then ranked No. 1 in the country. Now, the Bulldogs will have to handle Arkansas (34-8, 15-6) as their vigorous end-of-the-season stretch starts. The Razorbacks are 20-4 at home this season, and according to UGA Athletics, they lead the nation with 76 combined home runs. Georgia’s pitching staff will have to try and combat the big bats of Arkansas.
The rotation will look a little different this week as freshman Liam Sullivan will get the series-opening start for the Bulldogs.
Head coach Scott Stricklin said he will give senior Ryan Webb a few more days of rest after pitching against Auburn on Sunday, so that’s why Sullivan will get the nod.
“We’re going to go with Liam Sullivan,” he explained. '“He’s getting his first career start and we know that’s a lot to ask of a freshman on the road. He pitched really well last weekend and has earned it. It will be all hands on deck Friday night as our other bullpen games. We’ve had success doing that and had won four consecutive until we lost one last week. He gave us a chance to win against Auburn. We’re losing 7-0, and he comes in and throws four scoreless and is up to 93 miles per hour.”
Stricklin noted that Arkansas is a tough lineup from batters one through nine, so Sullivan will have to be on top of his game to succeed.
When you’re a relief pitcher and you have one bad outing, the numbers are skewed a bit,” Strick said of Sullivan. “His numbers are pretty good when you take out his one bad outing. We’ll have plenty of guys to back him up.”
Bulldog sophomore right-hander Jonathan Cannon will get the start on Saturday, followed by Webb on Sunday. The pair have been a big part of Georgia’s pitching rotation since the series win over the Commodores last month. Last weekend, Webb threw six shutout innings but left the game due to back spasms. Cannon also pitched a strong seven innings against Auburn, although he left the game with a no-decision. The game was tied at 3-apiece on Friday night, but Auburn won the game in 14 innings. Sullivan came in and pitched four scoreless innings and provided five strikeouts in the 9-7 on Saturday, May 1.
The Bulldogs were hoping to get senior left-hander C.J. Smith back sometime this month from an injury, but according to Stricklin, he will be “shut down for the remainder of the season.”
Smith has appeared in three games this season but hasn’t played since Georgia’s series against North Florida on March 5.
With Arkansas’ ability to score, the Bulldog bats will have to wake up this weekend.
Redshirt junior Connor Tate has been a vital part of his team’s success on offense this season. He’s one of the leading hitters in the SEC with 10 home runs, of which eight of them have come in league games. He’s coming in with a .337 batting average and has reached base in 23 straight contests. Also, his 59 total hits this season is tied for second in the conference. Redshirt junior Josh McAllister is also having a successful season for the Bulldogs. He’s batting .351 in SEC play and has hopes of returning a big bat after missing two games before last Saturday.
The Bulldogs will be facing Arkansas ace, Patrick Wicklander, on Friday night, who boasts a 1.89 ERA coming. Then, on Saturday, sophomore Peyton Pallette will get the start. Arkansas’ Sunday starter has not been announced yet.
Despite facing such a well-rounded team, Georgia center fielder Ben Anderson isn’t concerned about their top-ranked status.
“We know how good they are, they are ranked No. 1 in the country,” he said. “For us, we have to keep the same mindset like when we went to Vanderbilt. They are a good hitting team with a talented pitching staff. We have to show up and compete and try to win a series. We’ve played well at home, and we don’t try to change anything on the road. We don’t try to make the moment bigger than it is and play like we should. No matter what your job is, you have to get it done depending on the situation and be ready.”