In the opening series of the 2017 weekend, the College of Charleston outscored Georgia 31-17.
The University of Georgia should not be beaten that bad by a team projected to finish third in the Colonial Athletic Association. That's not an insult to the College of Charleston, because they certainly played harder and cleaner than UGA.
Simply put, Charleston wanted it more than Georgia and they played with more pride. It was a glaring issue from the press box and coach Scott Stricklin addressed it after the game. Stricklin said after game two, "Their guys competed and our guys didn't compete. Bottomline line is you gotta compete and have some pride, and that's what our conversation is gonna be here in about two minutes," before heading into the lockerrom to address the team.
Stricklin also added, "I know there's a good team in that locker room, its just unfortunate we haven't seen it yet."
The Dawgs threw an absurd amount of wild pitches and walked a gross amount of batters, giving Charleston free bases like they were Oprah giving away cars.
On top of that, the bats didn't wake up until the deficits were too deep. After allowing the boatload of runs between the fourth and sixth innings, the Dawgs waited until the seventh inning and beyond to tack on more runs in games one and two.
The Dawgs managed to save some face on Sunday when they jumped out to 9-5 lead. But again, the bullpen almost cost them a game as Charleston clawed back to make it a 9-8 game.
With more than 50 games yet to play, the season isn't over. With college baseball, you need to establish purpose to a season early on, and the Dawgs failed at their first opporunity.
At the banquet two weeks ago, chatter in the room was that Athens is a football first town, but if you win, you can grab some of the attention. The Dawgs underwhelmed during their first impression, but all can be forgotten with a strand of wins this week.
With a game against Mercer tonight, a three game set against Georgia Southern this weekend a game against Kennessaw State next week, winning can help people forget last weekend ever happened.
Against all three opponents Georgia's recipe for success is the same: fix what they've done wrong. Eliminating the wild pitches and limiting the walks will help the starters last six and seven innigns. Getting runs on the board early will take the pressure off the rest of the lineup. UGA needs to start executing the small things before they become bigger issues.
GEORGIA @ MERCER - tonight at 6:00 p.m.
Georgia split the season series with Mercer 1-1 last year, but owned a 45-12 record in the last fifty years. Mercer, of the SoCon, has outperformed Georgia in recent seasons. As a flagship program in the state and representing the SEC for the state, Georgia needs to be better than Mercer.
The Dawgs will start Andrew Gist against Mercer's Austin Cox. Gist, a left-handed senior, was one of the few bullpen hurlers that completed scoreless innings over the weekend.
Given the bullpen issues so far this season, it will be necessary for Gist to pitch into the sixth or seventh inning. In game three, the Dawgs jumped out to the early 4-0 lead, which helped Chase Adkins stay in the game longer. Delaying the bullpen's appearance will be the Dawgs' key to success going forward.
Mercer manhandled their lesser opponent Maryland Eastern Shore College in three games with an explosive offense. Georgia's opponent gave them a sharper reality check than Mercer's, and the Dawgs will need to set the tone for the week tonight.
GEORGIA @ GEORGIA SOUTHERN - Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
Without knowing the starters yet, don't expect Stricklin to shake it up from the Smith-Locey-Adkins order from last weekend. Kevin Smith and Tony Locey will get an opportunity to correct the things they did wrong in their first outing. Both pitchers are better than their last performance and they need to prove it this weekend.
Georgia opened the season last year against Georgia Southern, winning the series 2-1. But Georgia Southern finished the year with a better record, albeit not playing in the SEC, at 36-24. Because Georgia is starting so many freshmen while Southern returns most of their starters, it's hard to compare last year's series with this year's. UGA's youth against Southern's experience will be a good test of in-state pride.
KENNESAW STATE @ GEORGIA - next Tuesday at 5:00 p.m.
The Owls, like Mercer, split the season series 1-1 with the Dawgs last year.
"Inexcusable" is a harsh term to throw around, especially when the expectations for this team outside of Athens aren't high. But should Georgia stumble through the four games mentioned above and then lose this game, that's what you'll start hearing.
The team is young, and they're going to take their lumps throughout the season. But Georgia needs to find a way to make sure that they are only taking their lumps from the likes of LSU, Vandy and Florida. They can't afford to get crushed by Charleston, Mercer, Southern and Kennessaw State - those crushing defeats are inexcusable.
Georgia is one of the youngest teams in the SEC, but the recruiting class was ranked #3 in the country by PerfectGame.org. Like Stricklin said, there is a talented ball club in the locker room, we just haven't seen it yet.