Rewind: Diamond Dogs take care of biz in Hoover, await NCAA selection

THE MONDAY MORNING REWIND:

The NCAA’s Division I baseball selection show, aka “The Road to Omaha,” will air at noon today on ESPN. Sometime shortly after that the Georgia Bulldogs will learn their postseason fate.

Some might think their overall record — 31-30 — may be cause for concern. But those who have followed this process closely for many years say the Dogs have nothing to worry about today.

Georgia players gather around injured center fielder Jonathan Taylor before Saturday's first game against Florida in the SEC Tournament. (AP photo)

Georgia players gather around injured center fielder Jonathan Taylor before Saturday's first game against Florida in the SEC Tournament. (AP photo)

“The Bulldogs are a lock,” said Jim Callis, managing editor of Baseball America and an authority on college baseball. “They have the toughest strength of schedule in the country, the 16th-best RPI and they were the fourth-best team in the SEC, behind three of the top overall teams in the nation. The only thing they had to worry about was finishing over .500, and they pulled out three straight wins to do it. They’ll probably be a No. 3 seed, but the committee loves the computer numbers, so they have a shot at a No. 2 seed.”

It was only fitting that this team would push it to the brink. The Bulldogs have basically played the entire season on the edge of a cliff.

That’s the way the SEC Tournament went as well. Georgia was plunged into the loser’s bracket right out of the gate with 10-0 loss to Vanderbilt in the opening round. But then they knocked off No. 1 South Carolina 4-3 on Friday and No. 3 Florida 4-3 early Saturday afternoon before finally falling to the Gators 3-2 in the elimination game later than night.

The scene at the end of Saturday’s win over Florida was as emotional as the Bulldogs have had all season. And, to top it off, injured center fielder Johnathan Taylor was there to take it in with his teammates. Taylor broke his neck in the season’s third week in an outfield collision with teammate Zach Cone.

Adding to the drama, Florida’s starting pitcher Brian Johnson was struck in the head by a throw down to second base by his catcher Mike Zunino and was knocked unconscious. Johnson was left with a “mild concussion” and is recovering.

“This team has fought hard all year and to come back from the way we started here Wednesday says a lot about them,” coach David Perno said. “It was extra special to have J.T.  here, and the guys were real excited. It was an emotional start to the game and then they had their starting pitcher go down, and it was tight all the way. We came through for him earlier this year when J.T. came to the Tech game at Turner Field, and I was so happy we were able to do it again.”

At the end-of-year board meeting late in the week, Georgia AD Greg McGarity said he thought Perno over-scheduled this season and would advise the coach to ease off in the future. In the end, the Bulldogs played 34 games against Top 25 opponents, winning 16 of them. Both those numbers led the nation.

“We pride ourselves on playing a tough schedule,” Perno said. “It probably helped us make this run [in the SECs] and hopefully did enough this season to get a regional bid.”

Georgia Tech was named one of the host sites on Sunday. In a tournament projection before the tournament Georgia was placed in that regional as a two seed. If it drops to a three seed it will probably be placed farther away.

Meanwhile, Florida went on to capture the SEC Tournament title with a 5-0 win over Vanderbilt Sunday afternoon. Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are hosting regionals.

Palazzone named to All-Tourney Team

Junior pitcher Michael Palazzone was named to  the SEC All-Tournament Teamon Sunday. The 6-2, 197-pound right-hander from Marietta went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in two appearances at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. He got the loss against No. 3-ranked Vanderbilt on Wedneday but came back in relief on Saturday and picked up the victory against Florida. Against the Gators, he tossed 4.1 innings and allowed just one unearned run in a 4-3 victory. Overall, he pitched 10 innings and allowed four earned runs with no walks and six strikeouts in the tournament.

For the year, Palazzone is 10-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 17 appearances including 15 starts. On Sunday, the Gators blanked Vanderbilt for this year’s tournament title.

2011 ALL-SEC TOURNAMENT TEAM

  • P Michael Palazzone, Georgia; P Hudson Randall, Florida
  • P Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt; P Michael Roth, S. Carolina
  • DH Conrad Gregor, Vanderbilt
  • 1B Aaron Westlake, Vanderbilt
  • SS Nolan Fontana, Florida
  • C James McCann, Arkansas
  • 2B Riley Reynolds, Vanderbilt
  • 3B Jason Esposito, Vanderbilt
  • OF Kyle Robinson, Arkansas; OF Daniel Pigott, Florida
  • Most Valuable Player: Daniel Pigott, Florida

Softball team falls short of CWS

Georgia’s decorated senior class won’t be able to add a third straight College World Series trip to its impressive career resume. The Bulldogs were stopped short after Baylor took two of three games in a slugfest of a super regional in Athens.

Facing elimination, Georgia rolled to a 14-2 win Sunday afternoon to force a deciding third game last night. But all-star freshman pitcher Morgan Montemayor gave up five runs on four hits and didn’t make it out of the first inning. The Bulldogs fought back to make it 5-2 but eventually went down 9-2. Baylor pitcher Whitney Canion was MVP of the regional.

“I’m so proud of Baylor in the second game,” said Georgia’s gracious coach Lu Harris-Champer. “Whitney Canion pitched a great game. I’m happy for them and I wish them well in Oklahoma City . I’m also proud of our team and the way we fought hard. Incredibly proud of our seniors and the legacy that they’ve left on this program is second to none.”

The Bulldogs finish 2011 with a 51-14 record. The eight-member senior class leaves with a 194-63 record, a total that includes 127 home wins (most of any Georgia class) and 144 spots in the record book.

10 comments Add your comment

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Frank Lane

May 30th, 2011
8:48 am

This team deserves real credit for consistency and grit.

Barkin'Dog

May 30th, 2011
9:29 am

Jim Tressel just retired from Ohio State according to ESP… in case you may be interested.

As for the Diamond Dawgs, I couldn’t be prouder. They did what they had to do, against the best in the country… and I hope they go far with this renewed confidence and passion for the game.

Barkin'Dog

May 30th, 2011
9:33 am

Oops — ESPN, of course

JAWJeRDAWG

May 30th, 2011
10:25 am

Despite the Diamond Dawgs overall record thus far this year and their more than likely up-coming post-season offer for a chance to play towards Ohama, I’ll still sure there will so-called Dawg fans calling for Coach Perno’s firing.

With this year’s team’s RPI and strength of schedule, and JT’s injury and it’s resultant impact on the team, you knowlegeable baseball critics who call for his firing, please tell us why you feel this would be in the Diamond Dawg’s and UGA’s best interest and who you would replace him with. Looking forward to you knowledgeable and inlighting reply.

I’m proud of both the men’s baseball and women’s softball teams this year and send best wishes to the Diamond Dawgs when they reach the regionals. .. Go Dawgs!

TheXman

May 30th, 2011
12:30 pm

would like for uga to put in ga tech region..would be nice to try an eliminate them again in their own region.

TheXman

May 30th, 2011
12:32 pm

should read “and eliminate” would be a good crowd in atl thats for sure.

Indian Dawg

May 30th, 2011
1:36 pm

Agreed, couldn’t be prouder of my Diamond Dawgs. Hope we destroy those Techies if we get placed in their region.

Also, Jim Tressel’s “resignation” only reinforces what we knew all along. Ohio State won’t make it even halfway through their season, and that’s me being generous.

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