Georgia has absorbed some heavy punches so far this season.
But Sunday’s shot from Missouri at least buckled the Bulldogs’ knees and might have knocked them to the canvas.
Georgia blew a five-run lead as Missouri rallied for a 8-5 win against the Bulldogs on Sunday at Foley Field to take two of three in the weekend series.
“This one is going to be really hard to swallow because of all the momentum we had early,” Georgia pitcher/outfielder Jared Walsh said. “Once again like yesterday (6-5 Georgia win on Saturday), we almost let them come back, and today they did. That’s the frustrating thing. We tried our luck once, but we got away with it then we tried it again. This one is tough, but I expect to rebound with (Georgia) Tech. If you can’t get up for Tech, then you shouldn’t even be here. That’s how we all look at it.”
Georgia (12-21, 2-10 Southeastern Conference) has lost 12 of its last 16 games, including 10 of 12 in conference.
Georgia started the weekend just one game behind the Tigers in the SEC East.
After Missouri took two of three in the weekend, the Bulldogs are alone in last place with the worst record in the conference with six weeks to go in the regular season.
“This is the worst, the absolute worst,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “It’s tough. Deep down, my heart goes to the players and the coaches. We’re doing some good things. But we’re just doing some bad things at the worst possible times.”
On Saturday, Georgia led 5-0 after four innings but survived to win 6-5. Last week at Kentucky, Georgia let most of a 7-4 eighth-inning lead slip away but held on to win 7-6. On Sunday, Missouri landed its final haymaker in the ninth inning when it rallied from one run down to score four.
“This is definitely up there with the worst,” Georgia third baseman Curt Powell said. “This was a tough one. We went into the ninth inning with the lead. We were going for a home series win. Having a finish like that was really tough.”
Three of those runs came home on a triple by Dane Opel after Georgia began the inning by loading the bases with no outs on a single, an error by Nelson Ward on a sacrifice bunt and a walk by of Bulldogs reliever Blake Dieterich.
“It was a compound effect,” Powell said. “We didn’t execute on that bunt. It was a tough play, but it shouldn’t have even come down to that ninth inning. We had many opportunities throughout the game to definitely score some runs. We’ve got to take advantage of it so we don’t put ourselves in that situation in the ninth.”
The day started promisingly for Georgia as it scored twice in both the first and second innings. Walsh had an RBI single in the first. Cody Sheedy and Powell had RBI singles in the second and Georgia led 4-0. Georgia extended its lead to 5-0 when Brett DeLoach brought home Kyle Farmer with a sacrifice fly.
But Georgia sowed the seeds of its own demise in those early innings. Overly-ambitious base running led to four Bulldogs being thrown out at second either by catcher Dylan Kelly or right fielder Opel at second in the first four innings. Then Missouri reliever Keaton Steele (3-1) sat down the last 15 Bulldogs in a row to win the game.
“I think their right fielder had more outs in the first four innings (three) than their pitcher got and that’s just not smart,” Perno said. “We could have really stretched that lead and who knows. You don’t know how they’re going to react at that point in time.”
Steele allowed four hits and one run with nine strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings for Missouri. He also had three hits, including a double. Opel was 2-for-4 with a three-RBI triple in the ninth to go with three outfield assists. Kelly and Kendall Keeton were both 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Georgia gave up 14 hits to the Tigers and had two errors that led to two unearned runs. Jared Walsh made his first start of the season and allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) with three strikeouts and two walks in 3 1/3 innings. Bryan Benzor gave up four hits but no runs with three strikeouts in three innings. Jarrett Brown allowed three hits and one run in one inning while Dieterich (1-1) allowed one hit and three runs (two earned) with a walk in 0 1/3 innings to take the loss. Dylan Cole finished the game and gave up one hit and one run with a strikeout.
Powell led Georgia’s offense with three hits, an RBI and a run scored. Jared Walsh was 2-for-4 with an RBI while Jess Posey had two hits and scored once. DeLoach had a hit and an RBI and Sheedy also had a hit and an RBI. But all of Georgia’s offense came in the first four innings as Steele retired the Bulldogs in order the final five frames, including six of his nine strikeouts.
“We don’t know how to finish,” Perno said. “Our two conference wins are games we had complete control and we made them one-run games. We did it last night and tonight it finally got us. We’re living on the edge in games we should be winning comfortably and handling it. We’re just not executing at the most important times.”
Notes: Jess Posey started his third consecutive game in place of Nelson Ward, who missed Friday and Saturday with a shoulder bruise. Ward came into the game as a defensive replacement for Posey in the eighth inning. … Powell was thrown out in the fourth inning after he tripped over second base and fell to the ground to end the inning. … Georgia’s No. 8-hole hitters Justin Bryan, D.J. Smith and Daniel Nichols combined to strike out all four times they came to the plate. Georgia struck out 12 times in the game.