Han Vance from Atlanta: Winning the Tuesday early evening contest at Georgia State (12-2), the Diamond Dawgs are red hot.
Georgia State, located in downtown Atlanta, has been steadily transforming nicely over the years from essentially just a giant commuter school. While they procured the Braves old stadium for their football team, they still play their baseball games at a small compound in neighboring Decatur, nicknamed both “Panthersville” and more derogatorily “The Bus Yard.” Decatur is a pretty, little inside-the-perimeter city where I resided for three formative years after leaving Athens. Georgia State baseball offers free admission and parking. And, I try to capitalize on any opportunity to see one of the big three UGA men’s sports (football, basketball, baseball) teams playing in the Atlanta area, where I live in the inner city.
Under windy and darkly clouded skies, Top Dog Keegan McGovern came in batting .365 with seven homers and had an opening inning RBI of a leadoff runner. Aaron Schunk extending his epic 16-game hitting streak, Georgia having scored in the first inning in four straight games. Cam Shepherd had a sac fly, batting in the five hole. Adam “The Assassinator” Sasser, with his 17th RBI, pushed it to 3-0 with two outs. Georgia State yanked their starter and got out of the inning, then got a solo homer to cut it to 3-1 Dawgs.
Light rain came and went. In the 3rd inning, Keegan McGovern pushed the Dawgs to 5-1, tying the SEC homer lead, after a leadoff walk. A senior who could have gone pro, McGovern is on clear pace to be the SEC Player of the Year, which would give the school that accolade in all three key sports (Yante Maten in basketball, Roquan Smith in football). Then, Keegan cracked another two-run homer in the 5th to push it to 7-1. The lead went to 8-1. State couldn’t hang.
Winning at Georgia State probably successfully completed the series over the Panthers, with the scheduled February 28th home game canceled due to weather. The schools could reschedule the meeting, however. Looking at the Dawgs in-state, as I’m doing throughout the season, uniquely gauges the current strength of the Georgia baseball program. The Dawgs swept Georgia Southern in the season-opening series, then swept Kennesaw State in a home-and-home spaced over almost a month. Dawgs are 6-1 in in-staters, with Georgia Tech visiting Athens for the first of three scheduled meetings on April 3rd.
Georgia also won the opening SEC series of the season versus the Alabama Crimson Tide this past weekend in dramatic fashion. First, it was eerily reminiscent of the football national championship game in Atlanta, as the Tide extended the game to extra innings before eventually edging the Dawgs, who set a school record for strikeouts. Georgia showed so much grit over the next two days. Tucker Bradley robbed a would-be home run off the wall by Joe Breaux on Saturday, making the ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 in the 6-5 Georgia win. Sunday saw an identical score as the Dawgs held on to escape, after surging out to an early 4-0 lead. The Tide hit a late grand slam to put a scare in the Dawgs, Will Proctor pitching his way out of pending team trouble.
Next up, two home league series in a row bookend a Tuesday visit from Charleston Southern, who basically embarrassed the Dawgs at the end of a four-game road skid. Payback should be had, and the Dawgs are cruising. The weekend series are what matters the most in baseball. The South Carolina and Texas A&M meetings are crucial to setting the tone in a tough SEC, best in baseball.