GSU faces Georgia in classic David and Goliath affair

Josh Smith and Georgia State’s baseball team take the field in Friday night’s clinched walk-off against East Tennessee State University. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

The Georgia State men’s baseball team (4-11) will host the Georgia Bulldogs (14-2) on Wednesday in a home game where the Panthers will try to gain a win before conference plays begins on Friday against Appalachian State. The Bulldogs – who rank third in the Southeastern Conference – represent a major challenge for the Panthers.

Georgia State has not performed well in its first 12 games of the season, as indicated by the team’s six-game losing streak before its series against East Tennessee State this past weekend. The team has given up 115 runs during their 15 games.

The Panthers standing as last place in the Sun Belt East division isn’t the type of start they were looking to have. The team is trying to build a chemistry with a host of new players – most of them freshmen.

The usual leading performers on the team, Hunter Gaddis and Griffin Cheney have stepped up during this season’s learning curve. Gaddis is second in the Sun Belt in average innings pitched at 26 and seventh in the conference in batters struck out with 24.

Cheney with a .346 batting average ranks second on the team while senior Brandon Bell leads the team in batting average at .368. But as a team, the Panthers have struggled with batting and sit at or near the bottom of the major statistics in the conference.

The team’s .248 batting average ranks ninth out of 12 Sun Belt teams, ninth in RBIs with 66. For comparison’s sake, Coastal Carolina leads the conference with 133 RBIs.

The Panthers are last in the conference in fielding percentage at .954 on the defensive end. Georgia State is 11th in the conference with 26 errors, another sign of a young team trying to find their chemistry on the field together.

What the Panthers have learned and what they’ve struggled with this year will be put to the test by the Bulldogs, who have played as well as any team in the country this season. Georgia’s .308 batting average is second in the SEC, and its 124 RBIs leads the conference.

Evident by the Bulldog’s record, the team has played some of its best baseball in the early goings of this season. Led by sophomore right-handed pitcher Emerson Hancock, who 4-0 this season has and an ERA of 0.38, the Bulldogs’ pitching corps is one of the most productive in the country.

Their opponents have a batting average of .179, and the Bulldogs have struck out 168 batters this season – a mark that puts them fourth in the SEC. Junior Toney Lacey leads the Bulldogs with 32 strikeouts this season, and Hancock is right behind him with 25.

To give themselves a chance at an upset, the Panthers must have an elite level of focus at the plate when going up against the Bulldogs at the GSU Baseball Complex.

The key for the Panthers to sneak out with a win, will be to keeps their errors down and rely on their pitching and defense to slow Georgia down.

It has been a long season thus far for Georgia State. Playing a talented team like Georgia early on could allow the Panthers to assess just how far they have to improve to reach their full potential.