Dating myself here, but I once covered a Braves team that won 13 games in a row and later lost 19 out of 21. Same team. Same season. Truth, of course, was that those long-ago Braves weren’t nearly as good as they looked during the 13-0 streak and not nearly as bad as they looked during the 2-19 slump.
Which brings us to this season’s Georgia baseball team, which limps into the SEC tournament today.
The team that won 33 of its first 42 games has won just two of its past 13. The team that won 14 of its first 19 SEC games has won just one of its past 11. The team that was atop the SEC and ranked No. 1 in the nation has fallen to the No. 6 seed in the SEC tournament and the No. 21 spot in the coaches’ poll.
Look at these statistical splits, comparing UGA’s first 42 games vs. its past 13:
Rich Poythress: .422 batting average, 20 home runs and 69 RBIs in the first 42 games vs. .245, 1 HR and 8 RBI in the past 13.
Colby May: .369 BA vs. .265.
Bryce Massanari: .344 vs. .261.
Matt Cerione: .314 vs. .246
Joey Lewis: .309 vs. .222
Levi Hyams: .282 vs. .214
Team BA: .312 in first 42 games vs. .237 in the past 13 games.
Trevor Holder: 3.79 ERA in 10 starts through team’s first 42 games vs. 7.64 ERA in three starts in team’s past 13 games.
Justin Grimm: 4.12 ERA in nine starts vs. 5.03 ERA in four starts.
Alex McRee: 2.19 ERA in eight appearances (all starts) vs. 11.72 ERA in five appearances (four starts).
Dean Weaver: 1.01 ERA in 21 relief appearances vs. 9.35 ERA in five relief appearances.
Staff ERA: 3.86 in first 42 games vs. 7.42 in past 13.
No wonder the losses have been piling up of late.
The question now is whether, in the SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament, the team can revert to earlier form.
“This is a new season,” coach David Perno said of tournament time. “What we did the first half doesn’t mean anything, and what we did the second half means less.
“We’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity we still have. We’re going to Birmingham [for the SEC tournament]; we’re going to [NCAA] Regional. We’ve just got to get things going.”
Perno insists that, at the start of the season, he “would have taken” a 35-20 overall record and 15-15 SEC mark for his young team, given the personnel losses from last year’s squad. Those are the team’s records entering today’s SEC tourney opener vs. Ole Miss. “I would have taken it in February. I wouldn’t have taken it in April, because of the first half we had,” Perno clarified.
Georgia made a big postseason run last year, finishing as the College World Series runner-up. Might there be a postseason run in this team, as bad as it has looked of late?
Well, if so, it probably would have to start with Poythress — the first-team All-SEC first baseman — breaking out of his slump.
“It’s been a rough three weeks for us,” Poythress said just before catching the bus to Hoover, Ala. “But it’s one of those things about baseball: We might show up Wednesday and be the best offensive team in the country. We definitely haven’t looked like it of late, but it’s definitely possible. There’s enough talent in this lineup and this dugout to do anything, I believe.”
Do you believe?