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February 18, 2014

Bullpen lets Dawgs down

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Four games into the 2014 campaign and the Georgia baseball team is still working out the proverbial kinks.

The Bulldogs had hoped to use Tuesday night's contest against visiting Kennesaw State to do exactly that, only to have its bullpen implode in the final two innings, enabling the Owls to post a 10-7 win before a Foley Field crowd of 1,851.

"I think this team has some fighters but we just need to find ways to fight a little bit more," head coach Scott Stricklin said. "We need to do the little things well. We need to have some better at-bats and we need to start getting ahead more on the mound. There are certainly a lot of things we need to improve on. We're going to get this thing going."

Georgia and KSU were knotted at 5-5 until the Owls scratched across an eighth inning run before adding four more in the ninth, an inning that featured three walks before a two-run single by Kal Simmons pushed the lead to five.

The Bulldogs tried to rally after Owl closer James Connell ran into a bout of wildness of his own, helping Georgia plate two before leaving the bases loaded by striking out Cody McChance and Stephen Wrenn to end the game.

"That's the situation you want to be in," said Wrenn. "I made a mistake by taking the fastball. That's the pitch I should have pulled the trigger on, but I'm definitely going to learn from it. I'm confident if I'm in that spot again that I'm going to come through."

Striklin liked his team's ninth-inning approach.

"When you dig yourself a hole like that, when you're down five runs in the ninth is try to get the tying and winning run to the plate and we did that," Stricklin said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win in the ninth. I wish we could have shut things down in the ninth to give ourselves a better chance, but our kids didn't stop fighting, that's the one thing. Our kids kept fighting until the last out."

Georgia jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning, including a bases-loaded walk to Conor Welton and an RBI groundout by Nelson Ward

The Owls added an unearned run in both the third and the fourth before scoring three times in the fifth to go up 5-3.

Freshman starter Robert Tyler fell victim to a bit of bad luck but overall pitched well in his Bulldog debut.

The former Crisp County standout went 4 1/3 innings, scattering seven hits and four runs, although just one was earned.

Tyler was replaced with one out in the top of the fifth and Georgia still ahead by one, until reliever David Sosebee gave up a three-run homer to Chris McGowan to put the Owls in front for the first time.

However, the lead did not last for long as the Bulldogs answered back in the inning's bottom half, using an RBI double by Zack Bowers (3-for-5) to drive in Hunter Cole and an RBI groundout by Heath Holder to the game.

The score stayed that way until the eighth when the Owls squeezed across a run against Jared Cheek (0-1), who left with two outs in the ninth and a runner on first.

But this would not be on of Pete Nagel's better efforts.

The Metter native gave up a hit and walked two batters - the latter which walked in Kennesaw State's seventh run - before Stricklin finally yanked him in favor of Dylan Cole with a 2-0 count on Owl batter Dylan Ivey.

He never had to swing the bat. Cole walked Ivey (with the walk being charged to Nagel) bringing up Simmons who singled back up the middle for two more runs to account to push the Bulldogs' deficit to five.

"It was tough, but I trust Pete Nagel. We all trust Pete Nagel," Stricklin said. "He's a team leader. He's a very hard worker. He's a competitor and he's going to get that ball again. That's what we told him afterwards. We still believe in him. Everybody has a bad night every now and then."

Georgia returns to action this weekend when the Bulldogs travel to Tallahassee to take on Florida State for three games beginning Friday night.



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