It appears that as the month of May has arrived, the Georgia Bulldogs have hit rock bottom. In what was arguably the biggest series of the season, UGA came up short, getting swept by who-else but the #17 Florida Gators (34-14, 16-8 SEC). After coming into the weekend up 1 game in the SEC East, the Dawgs (33-15,14-10) now trade the Gators by 2 games with just 6 conference games left in the year.
Losers of 6 straight, including another embarrassing loss to Jacksonville St. on Wednesday 16-8 ( a game in which they were up 8-7 until giving up NINE runs in the BOTTOM OF THE NINTH), and 8 out of their last 10 games overall, Georgia is playing their worst baseball of the season at the wrong time of the year with the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament just around the corner.
It started on Friday/Saturday (the game got suspended due to weather on Friday night and the game was resumed on Saturday, after Saturday’s initially scheduled game was completed) as UGA jumped out to an 8-0 lead after just 2 innings, before the bullpen blew an 8-6 lead in route to a 10-9 loss in 11 innings. On Saturday SP Alex McRee struggled, getting knocked out in the 5th inning and while Georgia made a valiant comeback down 7-3 their efforts were not good enough as Florida hung on to win 7-6.
Sunday’s game, however, was arguably the most frustrating for the Dawg faithful. Despite two frustrating 1-run losses, a win yesterday would have pulled UGA even with Florida for the SEC East lead. With that in mind, UGA stormed out an early lead by scoring a run in both the first and second innings. In fact, heading into the 9th inning, the Dawgs led 7-4. Unfortunately, the bullpen imploded once again, giving up SIX runs in the Top of the 9th as the Dawgs went on to lose 10-8.
Early on this season the only noticeable chink in this team’s armor was it’s porous defensive play (with 63 errors in 48 games, UGA has committed the 2nd most errors in the SEC) and perhaps inexperience to a certain extent (e.g. with so many freshman playing significant roles on this team). Now, you can add the bullpen to that list. As the season has progressed, the pen has begun to come apart after starting so strong.
While senior Will Harvil (2.15 ERA in 37.2 IP this year) and junior closer Dean Weaver (2.32 ERA in 31 IP, including 9 saves) have been steady at the back-end of the bullpen, it’s been the front-end of the pen (Fr Cecil Tanner 4.45 ERA in 28.1 IP, Fr Michael Palazzone 5.34 ERA in 30.1 IP, Jr Jeff Walters 4.64 ERA in 33 IP, Jr Steve Esmonde 4.95 ERA in 20 IP and Jr Justin Earls 9.27 ERA in 22.1 IP) that has faltered of late.
The good news is that the ship can be righted. With seven games left (3 against Vanderbilt (27-20, 10-13 in SEC), 1 against #10 Georgia Tech (31-11-1) at Turner Field and 3 @ South Carolina (30-18, 12-12 in SEC), along with the SEC tournament, the Dawgs still have a shot of hosting a NCAA Regional. However, the way things are currently going, that hope is quickly becoming an afterthought.