Time is now for Georgia baseball to make a move

ATHENS — Fresh off an impressive weekend vs. Vanderbilt in Nashville, the Georgia Bulldogs are back at Foley Field to begin a well-deserved, five-game homestand. It starts Tuesday night as Georgia State comes to town for a 5:02 p.m. first pitch.

The Bulldogs (20-11) bring home with them a new No. 20 ranking, thanks in large part to taking two of three from the No. 1 Commodores. It was Georgia’s first series win over a No. 1-ranked team since 1993. Also, the Bulldogs became the first team to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville in a series since 2018.

Now they need to lock down on this newly-acquired momentum and carry it for the rest of the season.

Taking care of business against Georgia State is priority No. 1 in that regard. What’s the big deal, you may ask?

Well, while Georgia has been a good and competitive team all year, and has managed that despite all sorts of adversities, it has been in these type of midweek games where it has struggled probably more than it should. Looking back over the season to date, four of the Bulldogs’ 11 losses have come against the likes of Evansville, Kennesaw State, North Florida and Georgia Southern.

There certainly is no shame in that. In baseball, perhaps more than any sport, any team can win on any given night. And Georgia has strained considerably in some wins over such opponents, even requiring extra innings at times. But as a perennial NCAA Tournament contender under coach Scott Stricklin, ideally the Bulldogs would be able to take care of business without such midweek stress.

Regardless, UGA will take what it can get. And, as it is, Georgia is carrying some seriously positive mojo into this week’s slate of games.

The most amazing aspect of the series win over Vanderbilt was how the Bulldogs’ bats suddenly caught fire against college baseball’s best pitching staff. They outscored the mighty Commodores 25-8 and slugged .585 with eight doubles and nine home runs. Junior Connor Tate (.381-8-23) led the attack hitting .583 (7-for-12) with two doubles, three home runs and six RBIs. Not coincidentally, Tate was named SEC player of the week and national player of the week by Collegiate Baseball.

Georgia got some pitching, too. The Bulldogs’ staff posted a 2.77 ERA and registered 42 strikeouts against the league’s best offense that ranked second nationally in slugging percentage at .544. Jonathan Cannon earned the series-clinching 9-1 win with a nine-strikeout, no walk performance Saturday. Not coincidentally, he was named SEC pitcher of the week.

The coolest thing about the whole weekend had to be what happened at second base. The Bulldogs suffered yet another health setback when junior Josh McAllister (.362-5-13), the starting second baseman and the team’s leading hitter, went out with a hamstring injury and would have to miss the series. But in comes Garrett Blaylock – a transfer from Vanderbilt, of all things – and all he does is smack two doubles and three home runs and five RBIs and batted .385 (5-for-13) in the series.

That’s the kind of resiliency Georgia has displayed all season. The Bulldogs will have to keep it up tonight as it will be another “staff night” for the pitchers against what will hopefully be an overmatched opponent in Georgia State. Georgia leads the all-time series with the Panthers 43-8.

Then comes three games against Kentucky (20-9, 6-6 SEC) starting Friday. Clemson visits the following Tuesday. If the Bulldogs are to make a move this season, it feels like now is the time.

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