With the loss of first round picks SS Gordon Beckham and closer Josh Fields, many were not sure how the 2009 Diamond Dawgs would fare. Yes, quite a few polls ranked UGA as a Top 25 team, but certainly many of those voters were cautiously optimistic with the Dawgs replacing their top two players.
Plus, with their seemingly inexplicable string of off and on seasons of late (e.g. making the College World Series in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2008, while being extremely mediocre in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007) the jury was still out, espicially with so many freshman (15 out of the 34 player roster) looking to make an impact.
N0netheless, this team has quickly silenced any doubters, by getting off to the best start in school history at 9-0 (matching the start of the 1911 team) and have moved up to a Top 4 ranking in virtually every National Poll (with the exception of Baseball America, who has them at #10). The team has scored 10 runs or more in eight of the nine games that they have played (they only scored EIGHT runs in the game they did not reach double digits) and the pitching has been steady, giving up only 4 runs per game and carrying a team ERA of 2.89.
Among the freshman of note, is CF Jonathan Taylor, who has hit .538 so far, scoring 13 runs and stealing 6 bases in just 13 games. Couple that with his ongodly .667 OBP (yes, he has been getting base 2 out of every 3 times he has batted) and you can see why Arizona’s well-respected Head Coach Andy Lopez recently said, “I would give the Golden Spikes award to Taylor right now if I could” (FYI, the award is baseball’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy).
Fellow Freshmen 2B Levi Hyams (.333 average with 9 runs scored in 9 games) , RF Chase Davidson (.323 with 1 HR and 6 RBIs in 9 games), 3B Colby May (.290 with a team-leading 4 homers and 11 RBIs in 9 games), RP Cecil Tanner (1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 4 appearances, including 1 start) and RP Michael Palazzone (unscored upon in 3 appearances/6 IP of work) are all big reasons for the Dawgs great start.
The only thing of note to keep in mind is that the hot start has come against pretty mediocre at best competition (2-3 Youngstown St, 2-5 Presbyterian, @ 6-4 Arizona on a year in which they were picked to finish 5th in the Pac 10 and 3-4 Wofford) and the defense has been a bit of an issue with 15 errors in 9 games (1.67 errors a game) which has lead to TEN UNEARNED RUNS in just 9 games.
But, without question, I am sure that not even the most optimistic Dawg fan could have envisioned a start like this. Tomorrow night at 7pm at Foley Field, the Dawgs look to set a new best start to the season record, as they play host to Quinnipiac (0-3 on the season so far).
Also, I would like to wrap up my last entry before Spring Break, to throw out some props to our two basketball teams. The men’s team won @ Kentucky for the first time since 2004, with a 90-85 win. Leading scorer on the season, Senior Terrance Woodbury, led the charge by scoring 30 points.
If there is any positive to take from the team of late is the development of FR PG Dustin Ware and F Trey Thompkins. Both have been prossively getting better as the season has continued and have been big reasons why the team has actually gone 3-3 over their last 6 games (which is sadly not a bad record after a previous stretch in which the team went 2-12, including an 11-game losing streak).
And in an attempt to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994, the Lady Dawgs also beat the Kentucky Wildcats in the first round of the SEC Tournament, winning in style 82-64. At 18-12 on the year, the team is clearly on the bubble and might have to beat 21-8 #22 AP/23 Coaches Poll-ranked Vandy tommorow afternoon in the Quarterfinals in order to get into the Big Dance.