Last night, UGA baseball dropped a game to Kennessaw State 5-4 with every opporunity to win the game.
The stat of the night: UGA batters were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring positions. In addition to that, the inning leadoff hitters were 1-8 with a walk.
When going 1 for 8 to leadoff innings, while also managing 1 for 12 with RISP is unfortunately impressive. This means the lineup worked into getting on base after already losing an out, advanced runners (KSU walked 10 with a handful of wild pitches) but couldnt manage to get the breakthrough outfield single or double.
On multiple occassions the Dawgs had the bases loaded or runners on first and second with one out, but a strikeout or daggering double play would end the inning, leaving the Dawgs empty handed.
While the bats weren't working, the bullpen showed tremendous improvement. In both the Georgia Southern series and last night, the bullpen has gone from a busted levvy to a trustworthy placeholder.
Since the disastrous blown lead last week against Mercer, the bullpen has tightened up. Only allowing one hit in five innings of relief last night and six hits and three runs in 10.2 innings pitched during the Southern series.
The sooner Scott Sticklin has to call to the bullpen, Georgia's chances of holding onto a lead or staying in a game become slimmer. The bullpen's improvement can only last if they're not relied upon too heavily. If the starters last more than the four-to-five innings they've averaged, improvements on the mound will continue. In turn, this should take some of the pressure off batters at the plate if the deficit is within reasonable reach.
Just when Georgia gets one aspect of the game headed in the right direction the others suffer, like a high school student inundated with classwork. He fails a test in science so he studies extra hard in that, ditching history. Subsequently fails history, then focuses on that, but now his math grade struggles.
The Dawgs have yet to put together a complete game this season, which might be why coach Stricklin still believes he has a good ball club in his locker room.
When asked if he's learned anything new about his team over the last five games, Stricklin said "I really like our bullpen. Our pitching the last four games has been really good, some guys have really stepped up out of that bullpen. Offensively we gotta get it going right now, we're scuffling a little bit with the bat."
After losing to Kennesaw State, UGA falls to 2-3 on the season against the in-state mid-majors. With games at home against Mercer and at Kennesaw State remaining, there is still some glimmering hope that the young club can figure out how to put together a complete game and salvage a winning record.
The biggest issue with losing to these teams is the recruiting battles in-state. Only one of Georgia's freshman this season came from out-of-state, and the class ranked third nationally. Georgia raked in the best talent the state had to offer. Kennesaw State, Georgia Southern and Mercer also do the majority of their recruiting in-state, usually left with the table scraps that Georgia and Georgia Tech leave.
If UGA can't beat the mid-majors with less talent, than in-state recruits will opt to play for winners.
The team is still too young to make any final or rash decisions, but signs of improvement need to show soon if the Dawgs want to establish purpose to the season. UGA has the next 10 games at home before they travel to Baton Rouge to begin SEC play. If things don't improve, UGA is heading toward a thrashing in SEC play.
In the latest top 25 poll, the SEC occupies seven spots. Four of the seven in the top 11. Georgia has six of those seven top-25 teams on their schedule.
Georgia hosts UAB for a three-game set this weekend. Followed by a mid-week two-game series against Xavier and a three-game weekend series against Rider.
How the Dawgs stack up against their next opponents:
To give you some perspective, Georgia's RPI - the same formula used for deciding tournament teams in college basketball - sits at 45. In my opinion, it might be a little high for a team with a 3-5 record, but who am I to doubt statisticians.
For some perspective: Mercer, 95 RPI, stole a win that Georgia should have secured. Against Georgia Southern, 81 RPI, Georgia won two out of three, but should have swept had it not been for a strange ending. Then last night against the 161 RPI ranked Owls, Georgia dwindled every opportunity to win the game.
Against UAB (155) and Rider (269), the Dawgs need decisive sweeps. Anything short of that, against the easiest opponents they'll face all season, is a disapointment. The series with Xavier should be a competitive two-game set, requiring the elusive complete games that UGA has yet to show.
Postseason hope is dwindling, but to revive it, the Diamond Dawgs need to develop a killers mentality to prepare for what's ahead in the SEC.