After another 'saving face win on Tuesday, Georgia dives head first into SEC play against one of the best teams in the country. All season long they've been outplayed by competition that they should not be losing to. Yes they're very young, and some leeway comes with that. But based on pure talent alone, Georgia has no business losing two out of three games to Rider, followed by a loss to Mercer and barely out-dueling Presbyterian.
Here's a look at the teams UGA has lost to so far this season:
# of Losses
|College of Charleston||
|9-3 / 15-6||Colonial||134||
|Mercer||2||6-5 / 4-3||Southern||92||14-4|
|Kennesaw State||1||5-4||Big South||163||8-8|
|Rider||2||11-4 / 8-3||MAAC||147||
A number of losses on that chart stand are inexcusable. First off, Georgia fields SEC talent. The only reason you might've heard any of those conferences is because we're in the thick of March Madness. The mid-major opponents that Georgia's lost to aren't the cream of the crop in their own conference.
I understand it's baseball where three bad pitches can cost you the entire game, but two losses to the 147th ranked Rider by seven and five runs? That's a tough pill to swallow, even if the expectations have declined as the season has gone on.
In just about every one of Georgia's series, they've opened poorly but then do just enough in the most recent game to regain confidence. The flashes need to shine longer than they have. As it stands the headline for UGA's SEC preview is 'Like Lambs to the Slaughter, UGA takes the field against the SEC.'
The SEC currently possesses six of the top 25 teams in the country. Outside of Georgia's SEC play, they have Clemson and Georgia Tech as well. Clemson ranks 13th, while Georgia Tech flirts just ouside the top 25.
If they can barely handle their own against lesser talent, they will be throttled by teams within the best conference in college baseball.
"We're gonna have to play better baseball, that's for sure," said Stricklin about heading into SEC play after Tuesday's 8-7 win over Presbyterian.
First on the slate is LSU tonight, tomorrow and Sunday in Baton Rouge. In addition to facing the stiff competition against one of the best teams in the country, the environment in Alex Box Stadium is hostile compared Foley Field's docile nature. The crowds are expected creep around 12,000 fans whereas Georgia struggles to attract more than one or two thousand on a good day.
"We expect to win some baseball games. We're going to try and go win a series. LSU is a top-ten team, they're very very talented, well coached and have a great crowd" said Stricklin on his expectations for the SEC opener.
The expected pitching matchups:
- Game One: Andrew Gist (0-0, 2.20) vs. Alex Lange (3-1, 3.05)
- Game Two: Tony Locey (2-2, 7.47) vs. Jared Poche´ (4-0, 0.00)
- Game Three: Chase Adkins (2-0, 2.25) vs. Eric Walker (2-0, 2.14)
The Dawgs face tough sledding against LSU's rotation, with some of the best pitchers in the country. Poche' often carries no-hitters deep into contests, and expects to feast off a young Georgia lineup with the crowd energy behind him.
Speaking of energy, it's been noticeably different lately in UGA's dugout. Coach Stricklin, who didn't seem thrilled that he had to harp on his team for a lack of energy, said this on the change in energy the last couple of games:
"It's huge. To me that should be the standard. It shouldn't be something we say after a game, 'Hey we had great energy today.' We should have great energy every day."
"We knew with the time change and the weather it wasn't going to be a great crowd today. [Our message was] can you be excited, can you play with passion and energy. That's the standard for us. You have to have that passion and energy no matter who you're playing. It won't be very hard to have passion and energy this weekend, that's for sure."
More than just energy, the Dawgs will have to execute. Botching the ball around the infield on errors, wild pitches and free bases will destroy Georgia if it continues against the seventh-ranked Tigers.
Check back on Monday for a series recap.