Arkansas’ pitching keeps Georgia at bay

The first two Georgia batters of the game got hits against Arkansas starter Barrett Astin.

The Bulldogs needed seven more innings to get two more against him.

Astin keyed a six-hit shutout as Arkansas beat Georgia 2-0 on Friday at Foley Field in Game 1 of the weekend series.

“The first inning was good,” Georgia shortstop Kyle Farmer said. “We came out hitting the ball hard. We kind of got Astin on his toes a little bit. But we let him settle in which we shouldn’t have done. We should have gotten some runs in that first inning but we let him settle in. He did a great job throwing off-speed. He has this one pitch, it’s kind of a cutter. I don’t know what it is but it kind of fooled me a couple of times.”

On Tuesday, Georgia hammered out season highs with 23 hits and 17 runs in a 17-0 shutout win against Georgia Tech.

Arkansas began the series leading the nation with a 1.81 team ERA and managed to lower that statistic against the Bulldogs. After the two-hit first inning, Georgia got its next hit in the fifth and its fourth in the eighth.

Astin (3-2) allowed four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in eight innings. Colby Suggs allowed two hits but pitched a shutout ninth to get his sixth save.

“We definitely had an opportunity in that first inning but you’ve got to tip your cap to that guy (Astin),” Georgia third baseman Curt Powell said. “They were good and they definitely showed us tonight what they’ve got. The first guy (Astin) was definitely keeping us off balance.

“He had four pitches and he was using all of them whenever he wanted to. The last guy (Suggs) speaks for himself. I think he hit 96 (mph) and everything else was above it. That’s good stuff.”

Georgia (16-27, 4-15 in the Southeastern Conference) will host Arkansas (28-15, 12-7) in Game 2 beginning at noon on Saturday at Foley Field.

Probable starters are Georgia right-hander Sean McLaughlin (4-4, 3.33 ERA) against Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek (5-2, 1.63).

“We didn’t have a lot of balance in our lineup tonight,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “I don’t think Nelson (Ward) is injured anymore. But we’ve got to get more out of him offensively. He’s a base runner and a spark and we didn’t get much out of him. Justin Bryan gets three hits (against Georgia Tech) and then tonight he strikes out three times. We just needed a little more balance in our lineup.”

Powell and Farmer started the game with back-to-back singles and Hunter Cole bunted them to second and third with one out. After Jared Walsh struck out, Astin walked Brett DeLoach to load the bases. Daniel Nichols drove the ball deep to center field but it was caught in front of the warning track for the last out. Astin retired the next 21 of 24 Bulldogs before giving way to Suggs in the ninth.

“Astin is really good and we’ve always had trouble with him,” Perno said. “He throws about three or four pitches and has great command. I thought we had good at-bats. That first inning I thought Nichols hit it pretty good but it went to the warning track. We had some pretty good at-bats but we need to get a little more balance.”

Georgia began the ninth with back-to-back singles by Walsh and DeLoach. After Nichols’ sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out, Sean McLaughlin flew out to shallow left and pinch-hitter Jess Posey struck out to end the game.

Georgia almost matched Arkansas pitch for pitch. Arkansas managed three hits but Georgia added four walks and two hit batsmen. Arkansas scored one run in the third on an RBI single by Brian Anderson. The Razorbacks picked up another in the eighth on two walks and two hit batsmen allowed by Blake Dieterich. Boling (2-6) allowed three hits and one run (earned) with four strikeouts and four walks in six innings but took the loss.

“Our pitchers battled,” Perno said. “It’s frustrating because (Dieterich) doesn’t give up a hit but we still find a way to give up a run. I think he’s healthy too now. It could have been a little different. If we could have held it to one (run) and we get the leadoff batter on in the ninth then we’d probably played it a little different and they probably would have played it a little different.”

Notes: Farmer and Powell accounted for four of Georgia’s six hits. … Farmer extended his hitting streak to eight games. … Cole had his first career sacrifice bunt in the first inning. … Arkansas’s Brian Anderson had two of the Razorbacks’ three hits.