THE MONDAY MORNING REWIND
It’s official. The 2011 Georgia Bulldogs are the most gut-wrenching, heartbreaking team in the history of college baseball.
OK, I can’t actually verify that. But suffice it to say these boys have been put through the ringer this season.
Case in point: This weekend’s series against Vanderbilt. Needing to win at least two of three games against the nation’s No. 3-ranked team, the Bulldogs instead lost two to the Commodores. And they did it in the most excruciating manner possible.
On Thursday, Georgia pulled off a stunning come-from-behind 5-4 victory behind the stellar pitching of Michael Palazzone and some gritty work at the plate. That got the Bulldogs two games above .500 and offered hope for an advantageous weekend.
On Friday, the Diamond Dogs fell behind early but fought back to trail 4-3 midway through the game and knocked out all-star pitcher Grayson Garvin. But after wasting several scoring chances, Vanderbilt broke open the game late for a 9-3 victory.
Then came the rubber game on Saturday. After falling behind 6-0 early, the Bulldogs clawed their way back to take a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. But that lead was gone a half-inning later as the Commodores put up a five-spot in the eighth. By the time it ended, Georgia was looking up from the bottom end of a 17-7 final score.
“A comeback like that against a team like [Vanderbilt] is something to be proud of,” said Georgia coach David Perno, grasping for positives. “Unfortunately this is just a cruel game and this is going to be a real tough one to swallow.”
So has gone the last third of the season. After seeing its RPI climb into the teens, Georgia lost each of the its final three SEC series.
Now at 28-28 (16-14 SEC), the Dogs are in need of a small miracle in the SEC Tournament to have any chance of postseason play. Seeded fifth overall, they need to win at least three games for a shot at an NCAA regional berth.
Their opening-round opponent in Hoover? Vanderbilt, of course.
As for the rest of the SEC, Vandy finished in a three-way tie with Florida and South Carolina for the regular-season championship. The Gamecocks are the No. 1 seed for the tournament based on tiebreakers and Arkansas is the 2 seed because it won the West.
Netters getting it done in Palo Alto
The accomplishments of coach Manuel Diaz’s men’s tennis teams continue to shock and awe. The Bulldogs, comprised of a couple of lettermen and seven newcomers, knocked off a Tennessee squad they’d lost to twice this season and the last five times overall at the NCAA Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., on Saturday. They did it after losing the doubles point and charging back in singles for a 4-3 win.
Junior Wil Spencer clinched the match with a valiant three-set victory at No. singles, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.
“Wil Spencer had a tremendous, tremendous performance,” Diaz said. “I told him when he was cramping at the end, ‘this is what great stories are made of.’ We’ll be talking about this 20 years from now.”
The victory at Stanford’s Taube Tennis Center put No. 6-ranked Georgia (24-5) in NCAA semifinals — the tennis Final Four — for the fifth time in the last six seasons. The Bulldogs have won six national championships.
“This is being a Bulldog,” Spencer said. “You have that family and support and I wanted to win it for the team. We’ve worked hard all year and there was no way I was going to give up. It was a great team effort. I got the win there at the end, but if it wasn’t for the three other guys it wouldn’t have happened.”
The Bulldogs will face two-time defending national champion Southern California today at 3 p.m. The match features the last four NCAA champions as Georgia won in 2007 and 2008 and the Trojans took the title in each of the last two seasons.
Lady netters fall short
The Georgia women’s tennis team saw its season come to a close Sunday as it fell 4-0 to the defending national champion Stanford in the NCAA quarterfinals.The Bulldogs finish the 2011 campaign 19-4, while Stanford remains the nation’s lone unbeaten squad at 27-0.
“I’m very proud of my team and the year that we had,” said coach Jeff Wallace, who has led UGA to 26 consecutive NCAA championship appearances. “I felt like we came out and had a great regional in Athens, playing one of our best matches of the year vs. Alabama and then playing a thriller in the Round of 16 vs. Cal.”
At one point, Georgia led 6-3 on court two and 3-1 with an ad on court three in doubles, before relinquishing both leads.
UGA To Host NCAA Softball Super Regional
Things are breaking nicely for Georgia’s No. 8-ranked softball team. The Bulldogs defeated FSU 10-2 to win the NCAA Athens Regional on Sunday. As the No. 6 national seed, that sets them up to host a Super Regional this weekend against No. 11 seed Baylor. Georgia is seeking to make its third consecutive trip to the Women’s College World Series.
The Bulldogs have already gotten a break on the other side of their bracket as No. 3 seed Texas and No. 14 Tennessee went down. Georgia lost to the Vols in three of four meetings this season. Unranked Houston and No. 25 Oklahoma State advanced instead.
UGA will face the 15th-ranked Bears in a best-of-three game series at Jack Turner Softball Stadium starting Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Game Two will be played on Sunday either at 1 or 3:30 p.m. depending on television.
In the Athens Regional, Georgia posted an 8-0, five-inning win over Georgia State, defeated UAB, 9-2, and clinched the Athens Regional by defeating Florida State, 10-2 in six innings.
Baylor won the College Park Regional in Maryland by posting three shutouts over Lehigh (4-0) and East Carolina (2-0 and 1-0). Georgia has played Baylor twice, winning both games by run-rule in 2009, 12-1 and 9-0.
The Bulldogs are playing in their 10th-consecutive and 10th overall NCAA Softball Championship and will be making their fourth-straight Super Regional appearance. After going 3-0 in this year’s regional round of play, Georgia’s all-time NCAA postseason record stands at 39-18.
Silva Zamora named nation’s top golfer
Marta Silva Zamora was unable to come away with a national title, but the Georgia junior was named the PING National Player of the Year by the coaches after recording a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in College Station, Texas, this past weekend. She is the fourth UGA player to be named national player of the year, joining Terri Moody, Cindy Schreyer and Vicki Goetze.
“It’s a great honor, of course,” said Silva Zamora, who was also was named first-team All-America by the NGCA and won the Golfstat Cup as the nation’s leading golfer statistically.”I really don’t think I’ll realize what I’ve just won until tomorrow or two days from now. I’m proud because this award shows how I did for the entire year. I had a really, really good year. It was great.”
Silva Zamora shot a final-round 73 to finish with a 72-hole score of 1-under at nationals. It represented her sixth top-five finish in 10 tournaments completed during the 2010-11 campaign. She also recorded three more top-10 efforts and tied four 14th (a stroke shy of another top-10) in the other event.
Silva Zamora shattered the Georgia season stroke average, finishing at 71.51. That bettered current LPGA Tour member Taylor Leon’s mark of 72.63 established in 2006-07. Silva Zamora now owns first-, third- and 10th-best season averages in Bulldog annals.
All told, Silva Zamora recorded 22 par-or-better tallies in 33 rounds played this season. Cumulatively, she finished the year at 15-under.
“Marta was amazingly consistent with a great stroke average,” coach Kelley Hester said. “She had the best stroke average in the country. It shows how consistent she was. She didn’t have the wins that some of the other players had, but she literally didn’t have a bad tournament all year. And then when it mattered most, she had a very solid tournament at the national championships and tied for fourth.”
Silva Zamora has already returned home to Spain to begin defense of her Spanish Amateur title on Thursday.
Georgia men back in national tournament
The 12th-ranked men’s golf team advanced to the NCAA Championships with a fourth-place finish in the NCAA Colorado Regional on Saturday. Georgia and Arizona State finished tied for fourth, meaning those teams snagged the final spots from the regional for the NCAAs, which will be held May 31-June 5 in Stillwater, Okla.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs carded a 1-under 287 to finish at 7-under 857. Georgia’s critical round came on Friday when it posted a 12-under 276, an 18-stroke improvement over the first day. Top-ranked and top-seeded Oklahoma State won the regional at 31-under 833.
“I’ve always said this is the most nerve-racking tournament we play, and this result shows why,” said coach Chris Haack said, who led Georgia to national titles in 1999 and 2005. “You had nine teams with a legitimate shot at the five spots, and there was no room for error. I am proud of the way our guys got up off the mat after the first day and got us back to the NCAAs. We are excited about the opportunity to play again for the national championship.”
Senior Harris English paced the Bulldogs with a final-round 68 to finish in fourth at 6-under 210.
The 30 teams in the NCAA Championship field will compete in 54 holes of stroke play, which will determine the individual champion. The top eight teams then will move on to match play to ultimately crown the team champion. Georgia won national titles in 1999 and 2005.