As the baseball Bulldogs try to pull out of a losing tailspin in the last week of the regular season, the glass-half-full view is that at least the 2009 team broke that David Perno era pattern of a great year (like 2008) always being followed by a terrible year.
This year’s Diamond Dogs, ranked No. 1 in the nation much of the season, definitely are not terrible.
But they’re not great, either, as evidenced by their current six-game losing streak, which derailed hopes of another regular season SEC championship. The defensive and pitching problems that have plagued the team all season have definitely gotten more serious of late. The Dogs seem incapable of holding a lead, even in the ninth inning.
Still, with the chance of hosting an NCAA regional in Athens still within their grasp if they take this weekend’s final home series against Vandy, Perno’s Pups can’t be written off yet.
It’s been a precipitous fall, though. Three weeks ago the No. 1-ranked Dogs, who’ve packed Foley Field most of the season, took two of three from also nationally ranked Arkansas and appeared to be in good shape. But the signs of inconsistency had been there all season. Led by the big bat of Rich Poythress, they were generally producing at the plate but often were unable to generate clutch runs and left too many runners stranded. The bullpen generally has been pretty awful in the latter part of the season, and there’ve been too many errors.
But let’s keep this in perspective. It’s a young team that at times has started as many as five freshmen. The remarkable 14-win streak that opened the season got a lot of hopes up, but was mostly against lesser opposition, and while Georgia had some impressive sweeps against Mississippi State, Tennessee, Clemson and Kentucky, they dropped two of three to Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss and had some embarrassing midweek losses (including getting beaten in two games a week apart by Jacksonville State).
Then came last weekend and getting swept by Florida in Athens.
Now sitting at sixth place in the overall SEC standings and ranked 13, 14 and 22 in the major national polls, the Dogs are 9-9 against ranked opponents and have won only two of their last eight games, leading many to say they’ve run out of gas.
But as Perno has noted, his 2004 team, which finished third in the College World Series, also had a six-game losing streak (though they were SEC co-champions). And assuming they don’t continue to lose more than they win in the last week of the season, projections are the Dogs will continue the postseason in Athens after the SEC tournament. Even the worst case scenario has them making the NCAA tournament if they don’t host a regional.
Not bad for one of Perno’s alternating “off” years.
If you’re able to make it to Foley Field to support the Dogs this weekend, tickets are still available for all three games of the series against Vandy, with first pitch at 7 p.m. tonight, 1 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. And if your kid has been just dying for a Georgia baseball jersey pillow (??!!), the first 1,500 fans entering on Saturday will get one as a freebie.
Nip it in the bud: As I wrote Thursday, the most troubling aspect of the rumored possible suspensions of three football players, still not confirmed by Mark Richt, is emerging pass-rush threat Justin Houston missing any playing time at defensive end. But the larger issue here is whether the suspensions, if they happen, are the sort of occasional minor rules violations that can be expected out of any group of 100-plus college students, or if they’re the first sign that the team’s off-season focus is beginning to waver. Either way, this probably would be a good time for leaders like Joe Cox to call a team meeting and get everyone’s attention. Forcefully.