Han Vance on Georgia baseball: the Georgia Bulldogs baseball team fell to a still solid 8-4 in SEC play Saturday with the culmination of a road series in the Music City. Dropping a league series for the first time this season, two games to one on the road to baseball-strong Vandy, should not be seen as cause for immediate alarm. Although, the Dawgs were fairly soundly outplayed after a heroic come from behind Thursday night win.
Under drizzly Nashville skies, the slick artificial turf of the “VandyBoys” caused some problems for Georgia, which were overcome. The game was televised nationally by ESPNU, and I was up late, glued to my television set in Atlanta. After five straight losing seasons under Scott Stricklin, I strode into my workplace on Friday morning and announced to a fellow alum that Georgia baseball was all the way back.
Friday and Saturday didn’t go nearly as well. Vanderbilt had skidded in five straight, then stopped the bleeding against a resilient and talented Georgia team that had won 16-of-18 through the start of the weekend. Could the whole season suddenly go either way, I wondered, as my rose-colored glasses darkened?
A record ten SEC schools were ranked in a recent poll. With Georgia having edged Texas A&M in Athens over three games, they fell from the rankings in the poll I most often use (there are a bunch of them in college baseball). Nine league teams remained ranked, and Georgia has defeated none of them in a series to-date. The cumulative record versus then-ranked Vandy and Texas A&M is just 3-3. While UGA boasts a strong 23-9 record overall, with an outstanding 17-2 home mark at Foley Field, 6-7 on the road impresses nobody.
Rival Clemson welcomes Georgia to the Palmetto State on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for a neutral site border battle to be played at SRP Park in North Augusta, South Carolina. Clemson visits Athens a week later, with (#9) Kentucky sandwiched in between for a traditional Friday-Sunday home series. With no true road games in the two-game Clemson series, UGA has a better than usual chance to sweep and should at least be able to secure a spilt. Stopping the current skid at two games and getting a win in front of regional fans in the Augusta area would be of benefit to a program seen as still on the edge.
Beating Tech last week in Athens keeps the possibility of “The Sweep” quite alive, with the Dawgs at Tech on April 24th and finishing the biggest in-state series at the Braves’ SunTrust Park in Cobb County on May 8th. This season, I’ve examined Georgia versus the rest of the state, as a gauge of program strength. The state flagship has impressed, with a 6-1 mark. Only Tech remains on the docket, unless the first Georgia State game, which was canceled due to inclement weather, is rescheduled, which seems unlikely at this late point.
The Sweep is a besting of Georgia Tech in the so-called “Big 3” – the biggest three sports: baseball, football and men’s basketball. Georgia football blew Tech out on the Flats of North Avenue in football, then Yante Maten led Georgia to a decimation of Tech in basketball in Athens. Getting one more win in baseball earns the athletic program The Sweep. Winning both more would be what is called in braggadocio fan rivalry talking competitions: “The Clean Sweep.”
Of course, the teams could meet, as they have repeatedly in the past, in postseason regional play. May 22-27 is the SEC tournament in Hoover, Alabama. June 1-4 is the NCAA Regionals, and the Super Regionals are June 8-11. The College World Series is June 16-27 in Omaha, Nebraska. While Georgia looks like a solid postseason team at this point, only eight teams advance to Omaha. Again, nine teams in the strong SEC alone are ranked.