Han Vance on Georgia baseball: On the college diamond, as many as seven national polls are considered valid. The D1 Baseball Top 25 rankings of April 9th were used in the compilation of this article, and an update to that poll will occur shortly prior to publication, so I expect some minor shifting in rankings, which have a good bit of numeric variety across the way-too-many polls, anyway.
No matter how you slice it, the Diamond Dawgs are scrappy and relevant this season, having entered into their toughest stretch to-date. First (#11) Clemson, the University of Georgia’s nearest geographic rival, opted to play their would-be home game at a new neutral site minor league professional ballpark in North Augusta, South Carolina. The Dawgs got the huge win behind stellar defense.
While Augusta is actually the second-largest greater urban market which is part of the state of Georgia (to my hometown Atlanta), the sprawling and mostly suburban area divides amongst two states. My wife went to a public arts magnet high school in the city area of Augusta, and my retired Army Colonel Arkansan father-in-law and freshly back from his third call of American war duty in the Air Force brother-in-law are both Georgia-side area residents. I’m in the area often. It’s pretty. There, I see lots of UGA regalia on red-and-black display, with a lesser smattering of South Carolina Chicken folks and some proud Clemmy Tigers, roiling in the glory of a football national championship we clearly covet. Of course, golf is king, which I actually don’t personally get since to me college football is beyond any secular religion and the biggest team sports are honestly all that really matter to me. My few lingering or occasional individual sporting interests tend to skew alternative edge pursuits such as skateboarding, which I did, and track, cross country, swimming, which are individual/team sports, which my sons play. I digress in assuring you that winning locally at baseball mattered to many loyal, sports-minded Georgia fans in the region.
It keeps happening. Expect a potential Saturday doubleheader in the Classic City anytime you see a Georgia baseball series scheduled Friday through Sunday. Sort of saddens me, as a sunny Sunday at Foley Field feels like spring. But if the weather shows signs of not cooperating, the school opts to go ahead and get the two games in when they can.
(#18) Georgia put up a heck of a fight against (#8) Kentucky but lost the razor-close series in anguishing style. On Friday night, possible league MVP Keegan McGovern blasted a bomb as he battled back from injury, with great effort from the UGA training staff to get him on the field.
Possible team MVP Aaron Schunk moved over from third to close out the Cats, with a 4-1 lead. Schunk (pronounced “Chunk”) had remarkably given up one run and one walk on the season. He drew the Bulldogs within a single strike of victory before the wheels fell off. It was 4-4. Then, it was 6-4 in extra innings as Kentucky took the opener. Coach Stricklin remains confident in his closer.
Saturday showed an inclement Sunday in the forecast and a resilient home team refusing to fold up shop. The Big Blue batted in seven scores, but the Dawgs busted open a seven-run inning in winning 9-7. Classic effort and signs of continuing an explosiveness that has been a hallmark of the strong 2018 team.
Saturday night, the bats went quiet. Praise for the hard stick fans who sat through all the hours and hours of baseball, to finally leave dissatisfied as Kentucky won 1-0 and took the hard-fought series. That’s actually about as good as it gets for a .500 week in the sport where winning the weekend series is what matters the most.
Clemson is back in Athens on Tuesday, and then the could-be biggest series of the season is slated. Georgia travels to gorgeous, little Oxford, Mississippi, to face the Rebels. If you can go, go. I covered the Oxford tailgating experience in a travel/culture article for Bulldawg Illustrated two football seasons back and absolutely had to love the place, even though our football team fell hard in the heat. At (#5) Ole Miss offers an opportunity for Georgia to open some eyes.