On a Tuesday evening when the weather went from sunny to rainy to windy to cold and back again on multiple occasions, the Georgia State Panthers (11-10) lost to the Georgia Bulldogs (15-6) on the baseball diamond at the GSU Baseball Complex. Despite the conditions, 351 fans braved the elements to watch the in-state rivals face off for the first time since 2015. While the Bulldogs hold a distinct advantage in the overall series (38-8), the Panthers had won two of the last three meetings between the pair. The Bulldogs made the drive down from Athens and meant business as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first and never looked back on their way to a 12-2 victory.
Panther Head Coach Greg Frady put together a daunting out-of-conference schedule for his 2018 team, including three opponents from the SEC in Auburn, Ole Miss and now Georgia, along with cross-town rival Georgia Tech. The strong early competition should prepare them well for the grind of the Sun Belt schedule over the next two months.
Georgia came out with a bang. With their first two hitters of the game getting on base, Senior Keegan McGovern began a hitting display for the night with a double to right center off Panther starter Craig Williams that scored Tucker Bradley for Georgia’s first run. It was the beginning of an impressive outing for McGovern, the Coffee County native added two homers and a walk later to lead the Bulldog attack, he finished with 5 RBI.
Down 3-0 before coming to the plate, the Panthers got a run from a majestic deep homerun, from Junior catcher Nick Gatewood, a Peachtree Ridge product who is having a great season. He is leading the Sun Belt Conference with a .360 batting average and leads the Panthers with five homeruns. Panther RF Brandon Bell followed with a single and looked to pull even with their neighbors from the northeast, but Bulldog pitcher Tim Elliott got the next two outs to end the Panthers scoring opportunities. Georgia State relief pitcher Brandon Baker retired the Bulldogs in order in the second inning, but the Bulldog bats came alive after that, plating nine runs over the next six innings to put the contest away.
The Panthers added a run on in the sixth when Brandon Bell homered to left for his second hit of the night, both of which came on 2-strike counts. Bell appeared to have beat out an infield hit in the third innings for what would have been his third hit for the game, but the umpire called him out on a bang-bang play at first.
In the mid-week, non-conference game, both coaches took advantage by working on depth in their pitching staffs, in total, 13 different pitchers were utilized. The Panthers staff struck out 12 Bulldog batters but also issued 10 walks which made for a somewhat choppy game for the defense and the crowd. Panther relievers Tanner Thompson, Trey Horton and A.J. Rolle all pitched scoreless innings in relief.
Georgia Head Coach Scott Stricklin said afterwards “We’ve been able to score some early runs lately and tonight we were able to expand on our lead, it was good to get a lot of guys out there some playing time because everybody has been working hard.”
For the Panthers, the game proved to be a lesson learned and the opportunity to move on. They will host Sun-Belt foe South Alabama for a weekend series and the chance to even their conference record.