Rewind: Georgia baseball soldiers on to SECs after disappointing weekend

Coach David Perno's Diamond Dogs head to the SEC Tournament needing at least three wins to earn an NCAA regional bid. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Coach David Perno's Diamond Dogs head to the SEC Tournament needing at least three wins to earn an NCAA regional bid. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

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.

42 comments Add your comment

Beast from the East

May 23rd, 2011
10:20 am

Martin the Calvinist

May 23rd, 2011
10:30 am

Beast from the East, this is a UGA blog, your gator sports blog isn’t welcome here. Why do you feel as if you need to post here. Sounds to me you have some sort of inferior complex! Go Dawgs!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

May 23rd, 2011
10:31 am

Attention starved poster? See above..
.

G8R GRAD

May 23rd, 2011
10:36 am

JaxDawg05

May 23rd, 2011
10:39 am

Hey Beast, your web browser broken? This is the UGA Sports section of the AJC, not the Dooley Noted section of the Gainesville Sun. Beast from the East, I sure hope you comment regularly when the mud hole is stomped on you and walked dry on October 29TH?

UGA Insider

May 23rd, 2011
10:48 am

I’m anxious to see what McGarity does with Perno if the Diamond Dawgs get killed in the SEC tourney. All I keep hearing is how McGarity is this hard ass like Jeremy Foley and wants to fire every Damon Evans and Vince Dooley hire except Mark Fox. I guess we will see if mediocracy is rewarded again by the new AD.

UGA Insider

May 23rd, 2011
10:49 am

Case and Point:

Would Jeremy Foley have allowed losses to Colorado and UCF in the same season? Hell No.

JAWJeRDAWG

May 23rd, 2011
10:53 am

* Good luck to the Diamond Dawgs in their quest for 3 more wins to qualify them for the SEC Tournament and for the chance of postseason play.

* Though I’m sure they’re disappointed, congratulations to the Lady Tennis Dawgs in reaching the NCAA quarterfinals. It was a good run!

* Congrats to Marta Silva Zamora for being named the PING National Player of the Year! You’ve done the Dawg nation proud this year!

* Congratulations to you, too, UGA Men’s Golf team! You have made the Dawg nation proud for advancing to the NCAA Championships!

* And, good luck to the UGA Lady Softball Dawgs as they host the NCAA Super Regionals. We Dawg fans are pulling for you to go all the way!

Thanks to all these find UGA sports teams for representing the University of Georgia well! .. Go Dawgs!

G8R GRAD

May 23rd, 2011
11:02 am

Jawjer:

C’mon, man?
You left out your Men’s Tennis team!

DawginLex

May 23rd, 2011
11:08 am

Insider,

Perno has a great recruiting class coming in. He has done about as well as he could with this bunch. I bet Greg M gives him another year.

Foley would have fired Richt after the 2008 season. Sounds harsh but it is true.

It Ain't Rocket Science

May 23rd, 2011
11:13 am

Sometimes teams do unexpected things in the tourney so don’t count out UGA baseball yet. If anybody thinks the underdog can’t go a good distance in the tournament and make an unexpected run, and yes be called the Cinderella team, just remember that a couple of small schools made a lot of noise in the NCAA basketball championships.

GO DAWGS

JAWJeRDAWG

May 23rd, 2011
11:13 am

Thanks, G8R GRAD. I’m sure you’re being facitious, but just too much re-read and posting trying to thank UGA’s athletes of whom we Dawg fans are proud.

Nevertheless, I never meant to slight the No. 6-ranked Georgia Men’s Tennis team for reaching the NCAA semifinals! .. Go Dawgs!

JAWJeRDAWG

May 23rd, 2011
11:22 am

Can’t proofread either: Facetious

Dave Perno

May 23rd, 2011
11:22 am

Fire Bawbie!

Beast from the East

May 23rd, 2011
11:35 am

“Sounds to me you have some sort of inferior complex!”

Martin,
No complex. Read the link and you’ll see that the Gators took top honors…….once again.!
By the way, it is called an “inferiority” complex.

JaxDawg05,
I’ll be at the game and I’ll be back here…..win or lose.
Congrats on second place in the All Sports Award. It proves that both UF and UGA have two of the top sports programs in the nation and that’s something we should all be proud of. Even though we both had a subpar year year on the gridiron, we compete well across the board in sports as a whole.
Great student-athletes at both flagship universities!

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RFP

May 23rd, 2011
12:02 pm

BftE, don’t act like the grammar police if you can’t follow the rules!

Dawg4ever

May 23rd, 2011
12:27 pm

baseball team is no different from any other UGA men’s program. All of UGA’s men’s athletic programs are irrelevant in SEC. Also, baseball team is just like the Football and Basketball programs in that it can’t win a big game. UGA’s football, basketball, and baseball programs haven’t won a statement game in so long, that it has become a joke. McGarity is nothing but a puppet for Adams, and he has done nothing to improve the overall athletic programs in men’s sports at UGA. He is nothing like his past boss Foley, and he is afraid to make a major decision, or to make an example out of any of the UGA coaches that are all underperforming at their jobs. Would be nice to have a program that doesn’t except mediocrity in all of it’s major men’s sports, but i guess we will have to become Gator or Tide fans for that to happen. McGarity is nothing but a big bag of wind. Can’t wait until this fall to see what he has to say after Richt falls on his face again. He will probably say UGA didn’t get blown out of any of it’s games this year, and that’s what he is looking for.

DawginLex

May 23rd, 2011
12:40 pm

As an AD, you can’t come in and clean house Day One. You have to evaluate who you have and evaluate the program and the results.

Clearly, Richt is on the hot seat and if he craps his pants, he will be gone.

It Ain't Rocket Science

May 23rd, 2011
12:50 pm

Is that like, “Butler Dawg4ever”? Probably upset because the rapture didn’t take place on Saturday as well, I bet.

GO UGA DAWGS

Summit Dawg

May 23rd, 2011
12:59 pm

DawginLex, I think Richt has alreay crapped in his pants!!!! Sure did look messy this past season!!!!

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

May 23rd, 2011
1:04 pm

After the tragedy to JT 2, I’m extremely proud of what this team has accomplished. Perno has done a fine job with what he has, while playing a darn tough schedule (2nd toughest in the nation).

Matthews Dawg

May 23rd, 2011
1:11 pm

Dawg4ever…Wow! Are you sure you are a UGA Dawg fan? Perno has done a great job and the best job since Steve Webber was there. I doubt that McGarity is a puppet. All you want is a knee jerk reaction. When CMR wins this fall, don’t come on here acting like you are a fan of his or the Dawgs! Either back the Dawgs or not. Let the people in charge run the show or they will be replaced. Not in your time or my time, but what they deem is necessary. Plus, the Athletic Dept is NOT reading this blog, so we are just popping off to each other. They have more important things to do with their time. Looks to me like you could use some time off from your job. I know I need it!! Let’s support them in sports and make ‘11-’12 even better. Go Dawgs!!

Matthews Dawg

May 23rd, 2011
1:14 pm

Starring… great point about schedule of the Diamond Dawgs! It just baffles me that we get so many “dawg fans” on here who do nothing but complain and whine! I guess it’s a tough life for some. Diamond Dawgs, MFox’s dawgs and hopefully CMR dawg’s will be tough in ‘11-’12!!

NFL Bound

May 23rd, 2011
1:36 pm

I believe anything UF related is also UGA related since we can’t seem to beat them. We hired our head football coach from Florida and seemingly always lose to them…that makes the post very relevant.

All in the Family

May 23rd, 2011
1:42 pm

Choke Artist = Mark Richt, Mark Fox and DAVE PERNO!

DawginLex

May 23rd, 2011
1:42 pm

When was Richt at Florida? Think you mean FSU.

Our AD worked at UF but went to school at UGA.

david

May 23rd, 2011
1:42 pm

I agree beast– well done by both schools.

Too Late and Falling Short

May 23rd, 2011
1:45 pm

The Georgia Bulldogs sports program. So much for McGarity’s “In the Hunt” mantra.

Rawkie Tawp Tenersee

May 23rd, 2011
1:53 pm

Home sweet home to mea! Dawgs will be in da hunt for last in da east….

Archie Bunker

May 23rd, 2011
2:01 pm

All in the Family,

Hey Meathead, shutup youze. Get out of my chair.

Kirby Smart

May 23rd, 2011
2:27 pm

If you morons would have hired me as your HFC, even the baseball team would be better.
I am the greatest.

Coach Vince "Coke Head" Dooley

May 23rd, 2011
2:31 pm

Has anyone seen Ray Golf lately?

atlanta dawg

May 23rd, 2011
2:34 pm

Everyone bashing the baseball program right now needs to get their heads out of their a@@. I guess everyone forgets that Perno is the one that took us back to the World Series and one game from winning it all. This team was not supposed to compete this year, yet have held their own and finished 28-28 against the toughest schedule in the nation. No one expected them to take 2 of 3 from the 3rd ranked team in the country. they at least gave themselves a chance by winning the first game. Now its just a matter of winning 3 more. For those that are ignorant, and most are that post here, Baseball is by far the toughest sport to be competetive in college sports. the teams carry i believe 8 scholarships total for the entire team and most are for half tuition so they are split between the kids. Losing guys like they do to the draft every year makes it almost impossible to keep quality pitchers after 2 years as well as solid players in the field. So either stand up and support the Dawgs or go find another team that you can stand behind because us real DAWG fans will be chearing them on in Hoover hoping they get into the dance.

I'll call you.......

May 23rd, 2011
2:41 pm

Gator fan wouldn’t recognized humility if it finger banged him in the backseat of Chris Rainey’s car.

BulldogBen

May 23rd, 2011
2:54 pm

atlanta dawg, well said. They can still get into the tourney with a solid showing in Hoover the idiots just saying fire this guy and fire that guy don’t really follow the team.

Also, we lost a great player in Jonathan Taylor early in the year and was a pretty tough thing to deal with.

Perno has shown he knows what he’s doing in his time in Athens. Baseball is incredibly hard to recruit for and even harder to stay consistent. There are only a handful of players in the sweet spot who were

A) not good enough to go pro out of high school
and
B) good enough to play at the elite college level

Bulldog Steve

May 23rd, 2011
3:45 pm

I guarantee that any of the posters that want Perno fired have been to no more than a few baseball games if any. Either that or they are just plain stupid. UGA baseball was irrelevant before Perno came.Perno was an assistant for Polk’s one year that began the turnaround and since then has taken UGA to more post seasons than all the prior coaches combined. The teams had two tragic events the last two years. They have been to the CWS as much as any other team in the SEC during Perno’s reign.

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Gayter Hater

May 23rd, 2011
5:13 pm

The Great State of Georgia has half the population as Southern New York(Florida). Yet, we produce premier athletes every year, that go on to be Pro’s. The Gayters are the media darlings now and it makes my pee hot just listening to these biased ESPN LOSERS. Beast from the East is probably some loud mouth Yankee that went to school in florida because Yankee Schools Suck!
Gayter Fans enjoy your 20 yr. tradition, Your School Sucks People !

Mark (another one)

May 23rd, 2011
5:38 pm

Now that we all know who hates whom, what does the bracket look like for the tournement after Vandy?

wallt

May 23rd, 2011
5:40 pm

I am from South Carolina and do not get to see Bulldog Baseball, but about one game a year, however I follow them as much as I can. I really do not esoect much in Hoover this weekend. they justdo not have the pitching. Next year cannot come soon enough. Give david another year.
I wish Beckman and Poythree were having better years. All in all Georgia Baseball is great fun. Anyone who follows sports knows that great teaams run is cycles. I am looking forward to the day when it will be our day once again.
I will be a Bulldog till the day I die.

playmeortrademe

May 23rd, 2011
6:43 pm

Baseball is by far in the best shape of any major program at UGA save men’s hoops, where Fox will really be tested this year.

As other have said, baseball is incredibly hard to recruit for and Georgia has to compete with several baseball powerhouses for the leftovers the pros don’t draft high. Baseball more than any other sport has parity between mid-majors and big schools because you only need a few good pitchers to compete. The Dawgs are nowhere close to the debacle of the later Steve Webber years and Sapp years when you knew a NCAA berth was a distant fantasy.

The NCAAs stupid “one game above .500″ rule is just another example of how idiotic that organization is. UGA finished two games above in SEC play, I think they beat every SEC team at least once, including Alabama, and has easily proven playing the second toughest schedule in the country that they would be one of the best 31 teams left if they don’t the at SEC’s large bid. Yet, LSU (who UGA beat 2 of 3) utterly failed in SEC play but will get in because they played an easier non-conference schedule.

UGA baseball didn’t fail this season. The NCAA fails to put the best teams in their tournaments.