MONDAY MORNING REWIND:
It was a weekend of good news and bad news for the Georgia baseball team. The bad news is it lost two-of-three to Kentucky and watched its ace pitcher get rocked for the second consecutive week. The good news is the Bulldogs managed to pull out a hard-fought 7-6 win on Sunday and qualified for the SEC Tournament in the process.
The berth into the eight-team conference tournament was especially critical, for it is now Georgia’s only realistic path into postseason play. The Bulldogs are 26-26 overall with four regular-season games to play. They still have a relatively strong RPI — No. 25, according to Monday morning’s projections — but have to finish at least a game above .500 to be considered by the NCAA selection committee. Now at least there is always the chance of getting on a roll in Hoover.
“I’m very proud of the team, I’ve never felt better about winning just one game in a series, but we had to have this one for a lot of reasons including clinching a spot in the SEC Tournament,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “Now, we have to have a winning week to finish the regular season and get some momentum going to the SEC Tournament and have a chance to keep playing further in the postseason.”
That’s not going to be easy. After playing host to Kennesaw State (30-21) — a team that beat UGA 12-8 back on March 16 — on Tuesday, No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt (42-8, 20-7 SEC) comes to town for the final three regular-season games Thursday-Friday.
One primary concern for the Bulldogs heading into the final week is the sudden vulnerability of staff ace Michael Palazzone. Palazzone had been the block of granite in the middle of Georgia’s weekend rotation all season, going 6-0 in SEC play as the Bulldogs’ Saturday starter. But the right-hander lost his last two games and was rocked in his latest outing. He gave up 15 hits and 11 earned runs in 5.1 innings in a 12-5 loss to Kentucky.
Tennis teams advance in NCAAs
The men’s tennis team advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 16 for the millionth time. OK, maybe 1 million is a slight exaggeration, but the Bulldogs’ record of success in the national tournament is pretty staggering.
To be exact, it was a eighth time in a row a Georgia has gotten three rounds deep in the NCAA Championships. What makes it particularly impressive this year is the Bulldogs weren’t coming in with one of their typical juggernaut teams. Seven newcomers were added to this year’s team, led by veterans Drake Bernstein and Javier Garrapiz.
The women’s tennis also back in the round of 16 after 4-0 victory over Alabama on Sunday after falling short last season. The No. 8 Bulldogs are in their 25th straight NCAA Championships and are now 60-22 all-time in the tournament.
Coach Lu Harris-Champer’s softball team played very well in the SEC tournament. After struggling toward the end of the regular-season, the Bulldogs reached the championship game of the SEC Tournament in Oxford, Miss., before falling to Tennessee 6-5 on an walk-off, solo home run. Georgia had led 4-0 in the fourth inning.
As a result of its run in the tourney, the sixth-seeded Bulldogs (47-12) will host Georgia State, FSU and UAB as the top seed in an NCAA regional this weekend. It’s Georgia’s 10th consecutive berth and it has made the final four of the College World Series each of the last two seasons.
Dogs good hosts of SEC Track & Field
Georgia had an impressive showing in the SEC Track & Field Outdoor Championships, which it hosted for the first time since 1999. The men’s team finished third and the women’s team fourth.
Highlighting the weekend was Matt Cleaver’s victory in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Cleaver, who I profiled last week, became Georgia’s first conference champion in that event.
On Sunday, the Lady Bulldogs got a surprising win from sophomore Maria Augustis in the triple jump. Juniors Nikola Lomnicka (women’s hammer) and Brian Moore (javelin) were also crowned conference champions for Gerogia.
The Bulldog men finished third with 99 points behind Arkansas (157.50) and Florida (140). The Lady Bulldogs, with 94 points, finished behind LSU (146). Florida (116) and Arkansas (107).
“It was a long four days, but a great four days,” UGA head track coach Wayne Norton said. “We had some people that did very well the first day, so that got us going. We didn’t finish where we wanted to, but we’re happy we finished.”
Go HERE for comprehensive coverage of the meet.
Courson’s staff saves life of track coach
The true highlight of the SEC track meet was the life-saving effort of UGA’s training staff. The emergency response of director of sports medicine Ron Courson’s crew is credited for saving the life of Mississippi State track coach Al Schmidt, who collapsed in cardiac arrest late in the afternoon on the first day of the meet. You can read all the details HERE.
Etc. . . .
I’m working on a piece on UGA golfer Marta Silva Zamora. The vivacious Spaniard is currently the No. 1-ranked college player in women’s golf. . . . I also hope to be sitting down with Travis Mays soon. He’s the former Texas Longhorns and NBA basketball star who last week joined Lady Bulldogs’ coaching staff. . . . Don’t worry, lots of football coverage coming.