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.
“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
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.