Georgia’s season of poor luck and hard knocks took another punch to the gut Saturday.
Arkansas used an eighth-inning rally to put away the Bulldogs 2-1 at Foley Field to win its second game and take the weekend series.
The loss spoiled the first complete game of Georgia starter Sean McLaughlin’s career.
“This has got to be up at the top, the toughest loss we’ve had all year,” Georgia second baseman Nelson Ward said. “Sean threw an awesome game. He threw nine very good innings. He had a little trouble in that eighth inning, but he shut them down in the ninth and gave us a chance. We hit four or five balls we all thought were home runs, but they didn’t quite have enough air under them.
“This was a very tough loss.”
McLaughlin (4-5) threw the first complete game of the season for a Georgia pitcher and allowed five hits and two runs with five strikeouts and no walks but took the loss. Georgia held a 1-0 lead going into the eighth inning.
But Arkansas put together three hits and scored both of its runs to take the lead for good. McLaughlin out-dueled Arkansas ace Ryne Stanek, who allowed seven hits and one run and left in the seventh inning with a no decision.
“It’s one of the tougher ones we’ve had because we played a great game,” McLaughlin said. “We were error-free. We were walk-free. We faced a great pitcher tonight in Stanek, so hat’s off to him. It was a good hard-fought game, but that’s baseball sometimes.”
Georgia (16-28, 4-16 Southeastern Conference) has dropped two in a row against Arkansas (29-15, 13-7) and four straight SEC games. Georgia has scored one run in the two games against Arkansas after scoring 17 against Georgia Tech on Tuesday.
“This was a tough one, but I like what we’re doing,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “We’re playing the right way. We’re pitching well. We’re playing defense. We’re getting into position but we just can’t finish innings, and you’ve got to tip your hat to their pitching and their bullpen and their starters. They do a good job.”
Georgia and Arkansas will hook up for Game 3 of the series at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Foley Field. Probable starters are Georgia right-hander Bryan Benzor (3-2, 4.38 ERA) against Arkansas left-hander Randall Fant (3-1, 2.33).
Georgia knocked on the door against Stanek and put two base-runners aboard twice before finally breaking through in the seventh. Ward led off the inning with a walk and Curt Powell followed with a bunt single. After Ward stole third, Kyle Farmer’s sacrifice fly brought home Ward with the game’s first run.
“Arkansas is a good team and they fought to the end,” Ward said. “We fought hard to get that run. We got into their bullpen in that inning and we thought we could get some more runs. But we didn’t.”
After giving up the first run of the game in the bottom of the seventh, Arkansas led off the top of the eighth with a double by Jacob Mahan and an RBI single by Jake Wise to tie the game 1-1. Joe Serrano singled home Wise for the game winner.
“It was just maybe two or three bad pitches and they’ll come back to haunt you, especially when you give them up like that,” McLaughlin said. “They gave me a run there in the eighth and I was hoping that was enough.”
Georgia had a couple of close calls in the game. Just after Arkansas had taken the lead, Brett DeLoach hit a deep fly caught at the left field wall that might have been a home run if not for the wind blowing in. Georgia started the ninth with a walk by pinch-hitter Jess Posey, but Ward grounded into a double play to erase the runner. Hunter Cole laced a line drive down the right-field line in the first that landed foul by inches.
“We’ve out-hit them two days in a row,” Perno said. “We’ve hit as well as anybody off of Stanek (5-2, 1.63 ERA before Saturday) if you look at his numbers. We crushed two balls that on any other day, when the flag’s not blowing in, they’re both home runs. Hunter’s ball in the first was close. You’ve got to catch a break and you can swing things around. Part of it is baseball. It’s a situation that we’ve put ourselves in a bad place from earlier this season but I’m pleased with the way we’re fighting and playing. I’m proud to be in our dugout and hopefully some good things are coming.”
Although Georgia has lost the first two against Arkansas by a combined score of 4-1, it has out-hit the Razorbacks a combined 14-8 in the two games.
Arkansas reliever Jalen Beeks (5-1) pitched one inning and gave up no runs and no hits to get the win. Colby Suggs pitched a shutout ninth to get his eighth save of the season.
Notes: Kyle Farmer extended his hitting streak to nine games. His sacrifice fly in the seventh was his NCAA-leading 10th of the season. … The nine innings pitched by McLaughlin was his career high and is also the most by a Georgia starter this season. … Ward and Powell had four of Georgia’s eight hits.