Georgia’s reward for gutting out a win over LSU to advance in the SEC Tournament is facing the nation’s No. 1 team in the second round Wednesday (5:32 p.m., SEC Network).
“We get to play Arkansas; that’s no bonus,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said after the 4-1 win over the Tigers on Tuesday. “But our guys will be excited.”
They should be. The last time the Bulldogs met the Razorbacks (42-10) on May 9, they carried a 3-0 lead into the fifth inning of a deciding third game at packed-out Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville. Georgia was still leading by a run in the sixth inning when starter Ryan Webb grudgingly had to come out of the game.
It represented a turning point in the season. That would be the last inning Webb would pitch for the Bulldogs this season. The senior from Roswell wouldn’t find out until after the 5-3 loss that the pain he was feeling in his left elbow was going to end his season.
“I thought we played really well when we went to Fayetteville,” Stricklin said. “We had a chance to win that series. They’re a really, really good team, and we’ll have our work cut out for us. But we know we’re going to stay here for a couple more days, and our guys are excited about that. We’re going to try to find a way to get win.”
Georgia had recorded a relatively stress-free 7-3 win over the Razorbacks in Game 2 behind 6-1/3 innings of scoreless relief work from pitchers Jaden Woods and Ben Harris. The previous day, the Bulldogs gave freshman Liam Sullivan his first career start.
It turned out to be a coming-out party for the 6-foot-6, 250-pound left-hander. Sullivan recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts and gave up only a single run in six innings against the Hogs. His performance included an extremely rare “immaculate inning” in the fifth, when he threw nine pitches to strike out the side.
Notably, Sullivan will get the start against the Razorbacks again Wednesday.
“It will be one day short rest for him,” Stricklin said. “Everybody in Fayetteville saw him on Friday night under the lights up there and he pitched really well. He’s a freshman with a big arm and, last three outings, he’s been really good for us.”
Sullivan (1-1, 3.82 ERA) has been Georgia’s most dominant starter since that outing. In his three SEC starts covering 16-1/3 innings, he has struck out 24 with only three walks while giving up 12 hits and five runs.
Of course, the Razorbacks — who lead the nation in home runs hit — will be more prepared this time for what they’re going to see from Sullivan. And they’ll be well-rested following a first-round bye.
But the Bulldogs are pumped for a rematch.
“Arkansas’s a great team, but we played them really well up there,” said Georgia senior outfielder Chaney Rogers, who was 2-for-3 with three RBIs in the win over LSU. “I don’t think I’ve had that much fun playing baseball, honestly, the last time we played. It was just an awesome atmosphere. I hope they pack it out like that again (in Hoover). Just keep playing tough. We’re just scrappy and that’s one of the biggest things about us. We’re not going to give up.”
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