BASEBALL: Gators At Georgia Series Analysis

A casual mention of Florida versus Georgia is usually enough to capture the attention of sports fans from the Tennessee line south. The rivalry has been one of the most intense in collegiate sports. If there were a thread on the Gator Country message board titled "Florida vs. Georgia Marbles Championship" plenty of people would click the mouse to see who won.

This weekend's baseball series between the two schools should be no different. But, I'm thinking this weekend might be a little different. I see the veterans of the Florida baseball team taking this one a little more personal.

Last season, the Gators had a sparkling 26-6 record when the Bulldogs rolled into Gainesville. Florida led the Eastern Division with a 5-1 record, was ranked eighth by Collegiate Baseball and in command of its destiny. The Bulldogs arrived with a very average 16-10, 2-4 record and departed after taking three straight. They ripped a sound Florida pitching staff for 19 runs. The series sweep was just what the doctor ordered for Georgia which went on to win the coveted Eastern Division title. The Bulldogs completed their season run in Omaha in the College World Series.

Florida exacted a little revenge in the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a 7-0 shutout against the Bulldogs in Birmingham.


Fast forward to the present, where Florida is yet again highly ranked (fifth), leads the Eastern Division (6-3), and maintains total control of its own destiny. Meanwhile, Georgia is literally in the 'Doghouse' once again. The team is not swinging the bats very well, nor have they gotten the strong pitching they expected. Georgia (17-12, 2-6) was swept by South Carolina last weekend in Columbia and three weeks ago was swept by LSU in Athens.

The Bulldogs beat swept Kentucky in a weather shortened series two weeks ago. They just swept Clemson in a two-game home and home series this week. Florida found out firsthand in '04 to come prepared every weekend.

Still, this is team that was expected to finish second in the preseason coaches polls. The Bulldogs have the talent to get hot at any time. Wins over arch rival Clemson could be just the thing to do it.


Pitching was supposed to be one of the strengths of the Georgia team. Sean Ruthven, Michael Kyle, Will Startup, and Rip Warren are just a few of the returning staff who helped get the Bulldogs to Omaha. The staff has struggled, particularly the starters, who have combined for a 4-7 record.

Typically, Florida likes to get into the pen, but that strategy might not be the best choice with the 'Doggies.' The top four Georgia pitchers out of the pen sport a 9-3 record. None of these guys has an opponent batting average higher than .261.

The Bulldogs will have a few hot Florida bats with which to contend. Senior Jeff Corsaletti leads the Southeastern Conference with a .462 batting average. That lead is among active players not suspended. Arkansas' Casey Rowlett has been indefinitely suspended and nobody in Fayetteville is talking. Read into that what you will.

Brian LeClerc is the only Florida player to have secured hits against the current Georgia staff. Hopefully, he'll be able to use this game as a springboard for conference play.

Matt LaPorta and Brandon McArthur are seeing the ball very well. LaPorta homered in each of the three games against Kentucky. He is second in the conference in home runs and RBI's. LaPorta and Corso led Florida to the Sunday win over Kentucky. McArthur also hit a home run in that game.


RHP Mitchell Boggs, 6-3, 215, Jr. (2-0. 4.60 ERA, .277 OBA)

Junior Mitchell Boggs will get the Friday night start against the Gators. Boggs (2-3) has struck out 28 batters in 29.1 innings. He was slapped around pretty good by LSU and South Carolina. The righthander gave up five runs to the Tigers in 6.1 innings. The Gamecocks lit him up for six earned runs and five walks in just 3.0 innings of work. The 'Cocks showed a lot of patience with Boggs, as he faced 19 batters in those three innings, making him throw strikes.

Boggs pitched well against the Gators last season. He came on in relief in Sunday's game with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth. One run scored on Corsaletti's ground out and Boggs quickly secured the final out to end the threat. Boggs gave up a pair of hits, while tossing 4.2 shutout innings. He allowed two walks, while striking out three. Brian LeClerc doubled off of Boggs last season. He is the only returning Florida starter to record a hit off of him.

RHP Michael Hyle, 6-3, 200, Jr. (1-2, 4.58ERA, .262 OBA)

Right hander Michael Hyle should get the Saturday call. Hyle was also rocked by the Gamecocks. He made it through 4.1 innings, giving up five earned runs and four walks. He struck out five Carolina batters along the way. Hyle completed 6.2 innings against LSU but gave up five earned runs. He did not pitch against Florida last season.

RHP Sean Ruthven, 6-4, 184, Sr. (1-2, 4.15 ERA, .261 OBA)

Senior Sean Ruthven will get the closing nod. He pitched 5.1 innings, giving up two earned runs against LSU three weeks ago. He walked five, though. He found the zone in Columbia, but that didn't stop the Gamecocks from ripping eight hits and four earned runs in 5.2 innings.

The son of former Major League Baseball pitcher Dick Ruthven, the young Ruthven picked up the win against Florida in the Saturday contest last year. In fact, he struck out the side to start the game. Ruthven gave up five hits and three earned runs in 5.2 innings. Brian LeClerc is the only returning Florida player who recorded a hit off of Ruthven. Surprise, surprise…it was a double.


LHP Will Startup 6-1, 200, Jr., (3-1, 2.59ERA, .247 OBA)

Talk about the Georgia bullpen should begin with Will Startup. The junior had a phenomenal 2004, and appears to be off to pretty decent start in'05. Startup, like everyone else wearing the Red and Black struggled against the Gamecocks last weekend. While he didn't allow any earned runs, he surrendered three hits while facing just seven batters in 1.1 innings.

He was outstanding against Florida last year. Startup left Gainesville with two saves in three appearances. The Cartersville native pitched five innings in relief and gave up just one earned run and three hits. He struck out five Florida batters.

LHP Rip Warren, 6-2, 187, Jr. , (1-0, 1.81ERA, .189 OBA)

Warren was the only guy who pitched well last weekend against Carolina. He threw four shutout innings, giving up just one hit and two walks, while striking out five. The middle reliever was also very successful against LSU a few weeks ago where he pitched 2.1 scoreless innings. However, he was lit up by Kentucky. Warren surrendered three earned runs and four hits in 0.2 innings. Warren also gave up two earned runs Tuesday night against Clemson. He did not pitch against Florida last year.

RHP Bo Lanier, 6-1, 165, Jr., (3-1, 4.43ERA, .253 OBA)

Lanier pitched two innings against Carolina. He allowed two earned runs and two passes on just one hit. He pitched 1.1 innings against Florida a year ago. In that game Lanier allowed no runs on two hits. Brian LeClerc singled off of Lanier. Justin Tordi drew a walk.

RHP Joshua Fields, 6-0, 176, Fr., (2-1, 7.50 ERA, .261 OBA)

The freshman was off to a pretty effective start. He pitched 0.2 hitless innings against LSU. However, he ran into the buzz saw that is Carolina baseball. Fields was shelled. He surrendered six hits and six earned runs in just 0.1 innings of work. Fields leads the Bulldogs in strikeouts with 32 in just 18 innings.




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The Georgia team has not swung the bats well this spring. They rank last in the conference with a .273 average. That's nine full points behind next to last Alabama. The conference average is .303.

Justin Niefer, who alternates from left field to designated hitter is the Bulldogs leading hitter at .321. The 6-0, 180-pound senior is a part time starter who appears to be working his way into the order.

Center fielder Joey Side is hitting .320 for the Bulldogs. He is second on the squad with a .526 slugging percentage.

First baseman Josh Morris leads Georgia in two key categories. His .618 slugging percentage and .500 on base percentage are a major source of the Bulldogs run production. Obviously, he leads the team in home runs (6) and RBI's (27).




























Besides relief pitching, another Bulldogs area of strength is their play in the field. Georgia has a .967 fielding percentage, tied for third in the conference. Shortstop Josh Smith has recorded nine errors this season in 114 chances. Third baseman Jason Jacobs has bobbled the baseball six times in 114 chances. The Bulldogs have turned 29 double plays.



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Base Running

The Bulldogs have stolen 30 bases in 47 (64%) attempts. The Bulldogs have only two players who have stolen five bases this season. Jonathan Wyatt has ripped off five steals in six attempts. Brandon Masters has stolen just five bases in nine attempts.

Florida has two players who have stolen double digits thus far in the 2005 campaign. Adam Davis has stolen 10 of 12 attempts. Stephen Barton has ripped off 10 of 12 attempts. The Gators have stolen 43 bases in 57 (75%) attempts.


Georgia Coach David Perno got some much needed results last year with the Bulldogs trip to Omaha. In his first two seasons, the Athens native and Georgia graduate compiled a 61-55, 25-35 record, very unimpressive. The Bulldogs' 106-78, 44-46 record is merely adequate after three seasons. The trip to Omaha served as a tremendous feather in his cap. If the Gators take this series, that barking sound you encounter will be the natives decked out in red, black, and gray getting restless.


It is always tough to play on the road in the SEC. Florida should expect a large crowd to support the Bulldogs. After all, these guys are only nine months removed from Omaha. You can bet the Georgia players and faithful know that the series sweep over Florida in '04 catapulted them to the Nebraska flatlands. Why not hope for a second coming?

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