ATHENS — Georgia baseball may have lost the series against No. 1 Arkansas this past weekend, but it left Fayetteville, Ark., with its confidence intact and with a third starting pitcher clearly identified.
The Bulldogs dropped the second of the three games 5-3 on Sunday before a capacity crowd of more than 7,645 at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville. Georgia led 3-0 before the Razorbacks mounted a sustained comeback that included five unanswered runs. Then Arkansas (36-9 17-7 SEC) unleashed its All-American closer Kevin Kopps for the final 4.1 frames and he improved to 7-0 on the season with five strikeouts and no walks while lowering his ERA to 0.67.
With the loss, Georgia falls to 28-18 (11-13). The Bulldogs have the week off with exams, then head back on the road to face No. 10 Florida in Gainesville.
“I’m proud of our guys,” coach Scott Stricklin said. “We fought hard and played well against the No. 1 team in the country with the biggest crowds of the season. I think they called it like 7,600 but it sounded like 10,000. We were in every game and won yesterday. To play like we did in this atmosphere, that was good for us.”
Georgia won 7-3 on Saturday behind the 1-2 punch of freshman Jaden Woods and sophomore Ben Harris, who combined to throw 6.1 scoreless innings in relief of starter Jonathan Cannon. And while the Bulldogs fell 3-0 on Friday, it did so only after freshman left-hander Liam Sullivan left no doubt he should be part of the weekend rotation.
Getting his first career start against the nation’s No. 1 team on the road before a capacity crowd, Sullivan gave the Bulldogs six strong innings of one-run ball with a career-high 11 strikeouts. In the middle of that was a rare “immaculate inning” in the fifth when Sullivan retired the side on just nine pitches, all strikes.
“Sully (Sullivan) was really good,” said Stricklin, who acknowledged that Sullivan would now take over the role as third weekend starter. “He has a week ahead of him to work hard and get ready for next weekend. We’re really excited about his future.”
Tennis teams advance
Georgia’s men’s and women’s teams made quick work of their opponents in the Athens Regional this past weekend to advance to the NCAA Tennis Championships in Orlando, Fla.
The Bulldogs’ third-seeded women’s team (22-1) dispatched Austin Peay and Wake Forest 4-0 on Friday and 4-1 Saturday, respectively while men’s team tore through East Tennessee State and Texas Tech without losing a single match Saturday and Sunday to advance to the round of 16.
Coach Jeff Wallace’s women will face 14th-seeded Virginia on May 18 at the USTA National Campus. The last time the Bulldogs were there in 2019 they reached the finals before falling to Stanford.
“Virginia’s got a really good team and had a solid year,” Wallace said. “We’ve got great memories down there, but it was two years ago and every year is a new year.”
Coach Manuel Diaz’s men’s squad carries some momentum to Orlando having won nine of their last 10 matches.
“Just a phenomenal effort from our guys,” Diaz said. “Texas Tech really pushed us at every single spot. They were very tenacious.”
The 11th-seeded Bulldogs (16-6) face No. 6 North Carolina (12-3) on May 17 in Orlando.
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Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com