Georgia’s SEC Tournament woes continue with first-round loss to LSU

Georgia coach Wes Johnson watches his team jump onto the field moments before the game against the Florida Gators at Foley Field on Tuesday, May 16, 2024, in Athens. (Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Georgia coach Wes Johnson watches his team jump onto the field moments before the game against the Florida Gators at Foley Field on Tuesday, May 16, 2024, in Athens. (Miguel Martinez / AJC)

ATHENS — Maybe one of these days Georgia will figure out the SEC baseball tournament. As of Tuesday, it’s an event that still has the Bulldogs stumped.

Entering play as the nation’s eighth-ranked team and the league’s No. 6 seed, Georgia lost meekly to LSU, 9-1, at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama. The loss was the Bulldogs’ third in a row for the season and fifth consecutive in the SEC Tournament. They’ve been outscored 38-6 in those games.

Tuesday was more of the same. Starting pitcher Jarvis Evans could muster but a single out before leaving with the bases full in the first inning. LSU would score two in that frame and seven runs the rest of the way. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ mighty bats fell silent, as they have been wont to do since the tournament moved there decades ago.

Georgia falls to 31-51 all-time in the SEC Tournament, never having won it. LSU improves to 91-49 in the event, which it has won 12 times.

“I think there’s times in this game when you get beat, and then there’s times you let the other team win,” said Georgia coach Wes Johnson, who was LSU’s pitching coach last year. “You look at the way we played today, and I feel that’s where it is. We gave up 11 singles. We walked too many guys. We missed too many fastballs in the strike zone. I can’t say we came out prepared and ready to go. We didn’t execute.”

The Tigers (37-20) advance to double-elimination play, which for them will begin at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday against SEC co-champion Kentucky (39-11).

Dispatched in the SEC’s first-round elimination round for a third consecutive year, the good news is the Bulldogs will live to play another day. Georgia (39-15) is expected to receive an NCAA Tournament bid when invitations go out Monday. The question is whether they will be rewarded for their regular season’s good work with a regional-host designation.

The Bulldogs entered the conference tournament hoping to earn a top-8 national seed, which would put them in position to host through the Super Regionals. As it went the past week, Georgia likely played itself out of that conversation.

“I don’t get too caught up in all that, but I’d definitely say we’re worthy of hosting,” Johnson said. “We won 17 games in our league, and there is all kinds of stuff out there about teams getting in with 12 and 13 wins, potentially. So, if people are going to get in with 13 regular-season wins and we won 17, yeah, that math doesn’t add up to me. But national seeds? I can’t answer that.”

Once again, Georgia’s lack of pitching depth was exposed. Five pitchers combined to allow 14 hits, a home run and a double. All nine runs were earned. The Bulldogs walked seven batters and hit two others. Christian Mracna, who entered in the first inning, accounted for five of the staff’s 10 strikeouts.

Georgia’s normally noisy bats fell silent, too. Star slugger and reigning SEC Player of the Year Charlie Condon was 0-for-4, snapping a 24-game hitting streak. Fernando Gonzalez drove in the Bulldogs’ only run in the second inning, scoring Dillon Carter, who led the way with two hits. They scattered six singles as a team.

It could be a good thing that Georgia won’t play again for more than a week.

“We definitely have some time to reset,” said Gonzalez, the senior catcher. “Obviously you go back and you’ve just got to remember different. Like Coach says that all the time. You’ve just got to remember different and don’t let it happen again.”

Said Johnson: “We have two choices. We can wake up and get better or we can get worse. We’re not just going to sit and hang out. Our mindset is, regardless of how today went, we have things we know we’ve got to get better at. We’ve got seven, eight, nine, 10 days, whatever it is, to work on that. And we will.”