Feb. 23—The seventh-ranked Georgia Bulldogs return to action Wednesday at 3 p.m. when they battle Georgia State in Atlanta.
The Bulldogs (3-1) opened the 2021 season by winning three of four from Evansville this past weekend at Foley Field. The Panthers (2-2) split a four-game home series with 14th-ranked West Virginia, earning their first win over a ranked team since 2018 and defeating a ranked opponent in consecutive games for the first time ever.
"We're unbelievably pleased with where we are right now," Georgia State head coach Brad Stromdahl said. "We have a lot to work on so we can continue to grow, but the foundation has been laid."
Redshirt sophomore left-hander Ben Harris (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his first career start for the Bulldogs. The Panthers will counter with freshman right-hander Mason Patel (0-1, 18.00 ERA).
Harris made his Bulldog debut in relief against Evansville last Friday, going 1.1 scoreless innings with a walk and three strikeouts. A native of Alpharetta, Harris began his career at the University of Virginia. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series with GSU 42-8 going back to 1971. In 2019, Georgia won both meetings, 6-3 in Atlanta and 11-1 in Athens. Several Bulldog pitchers are slated to see action Wednesday with another four-game series starting Friday against Gardner-Webb (1-2) at Foley Field.
Georgia redshirt junior OF/1B Connor Tate was the team's leading hitter in the opening series, batting .583 (7-for-12) with three runs scored and three RBI. He hit safely in all four games. Graduate OF/INF Riley King had just one hit in the series but it was a big one, providing an RBI-single for a 6-5 walk-off this past Saturday. His heroics were helped setup by senior 1B/OF Chaney Rogers' three-run homer an inning earlier to tie the game at 5. Georgia freshman DH/C Corey Collins started all four games in the Evansville series and batted .444 (4-for-9) with a home run and two RBI plus drew five walks. He reached base safely in all four games. Freshman catcher Fernando Gonzalez made two starts behind the plate and batted .500 (5-for-10) with an RBI. He has a three-game hitting streak. The Panthers leading hitters are freshman SS Will Mize (.533-1-4) and freshman CF Kyle Reisselmann (.429-0-3).
Georgia started four left-handed pitchers in the Evansville series including three freshmen (Luke Wagner, Jaden Woods and Charlie Goldstein). A total of 15 newcomers made their Georgia debut this past weekend including 12 freshmen. Wagner, a two-way native of New Cumberland, Penn., had the best debut, earning a win with four shutout innings, allowing just one hit with two walks and three strikeouts in a 7-3 victory. Wagner had a couple at bats in the series too. Freshman reliever Will Pearson picked up a win in his debut last Saturday and then a save in his next outing on Sunday, needing just an inning apiece with two strikeouts.
"I think we had eight freshmen that pitched against Evansville, so all those guys got an opportunity because the opportunity was there," said Georgia head baseball coach Scott Stricklin. "They took advantage of it. We expect to have Ryan Webb back this coming weekend, and then Jonathan Cannon probably the following weekend or at least the mid-week, and then Brandon Smith, Logan Moody, and Michael Polk. That's five veteran arms that are going to be trickling back in over the next two to three weeks, so it just becomes more competitive. We don't have to tell the pitchers that, but they know it."