Dean Legge/Dawg Post

Diamond Dawgs look to build momentum after first SEC series win

Coming off their first SEC series victory over the weekend, Georgia hosts the fifth ranked Clemson Tigers and conference foe Missouri Tigers at Foley Field and SunTrust Park this week

With their win their win Sunday afternoon, the Diamond Dawgs won their first SEC series of the season over the Tennessee Volunteers. Georgia has climbed past the halfway point of the season, and just now starting to show signs of playing like the good ball club that manager Scott Stricklin has been telling us about.

Through three SEC series, Georgia has shown slight improvement. Although the sample size of nine SEC games is smaller than the entire season, the Dawgs have seen an improvement in hitting and pitching in conference play. Although kicking the ball around the infield and giving up free bases are still shooting Georgia in the foot, they’re making up for the errors with better play elsewhere.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Georgia Baseball team ranks overall <a href="https://t.co/nMOp0dk5AI">pic.twitter.com/nMOp0dk5AI</a></p>&mdash; Hank Sewell (@hank_sewell) <a href="https://twitter.com/hank_sewell/status/848976866144915456">April 3, 2017</a></blockquote>

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When looking at the entire season, Georgia ranks third to last in team batting, last in team pitching and last in team fielding. But when looking at inter-conference numbers, the Dawgs are sixth in team batting, only second to last in team pitching but still last in team fielding.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Georgia Baseball team ranks in SEC play <a href="https://t.co/5bC8ZsU8Ko">pic.twitter.com/5bC8ZsU8Ko</a></p>&mdash; Hank Sewell (@hank_sewell) <a href="https://twitter.com/hank_sewell/status/848977000102588416">April 3, 2017</a></blockquote>

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Before the Tennessee series started, Georgia ranked dead last in the conference, at 160, in D1Baseball.com’s “Nitty Gritty RPI.” Winning on the road in Knoxville against a team ranked 132 RPI spots higher is a big confidence booster for the young roster. A series win like this can propel the Dawgs as they face one of the nation’s best teams tomorrow.

Tennessee entered conference play with one of the best records at 9-1, but has since gone off the rails. At the receiving ends of sweeps by the hands of South Carolina and Mississippi State before facing Georgia, Tennessee’s 28th ranked RPI looks a tad bit inflated from their hot start. The series win is still important with the fifth-ranked (March 27 poll) Clemson Tigers at Foley Field on Tuesday and a quick turnaround for a Thursday-Saturday series against Mizzou.

Clemson is a heavy favorite against Georgia, looking to feast off Georgia’s pitching. The Tigers rank 20th in the nation in home runs (31), which matches up favorably to Georgia’s high number of home runs allowed (21).

Pitching around Clemson phenom Seth Beer is the biggest key to the game, avoiding him at all costs will increase Georgia’s chances. With a bat that projects to work efficiently on the major-league level, Beer was Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year with a .369/.535/.700 slash-line and 18 home runs. And that was accomplished as an early-enrollee, meaning he should have been playing in high school, not raking at the division one level.

Past Clemson, Missouri is comparable to Tennessee. Feasting off teams that rank 100-and-above in the RPI, but started SEC play better than Tennessee. They opened SEC play with a sweep over Alabama, one of the few teams projected to finish behind Georgia by season’s end. They then split a four-game series with Arkansas before getting swept by Florida in three one-run games over the weekend.

Georgia is at their biggest turning point of the season, with an ability to put the bad losses behind them and battles with some of the best teams in the country ahead. The freshmen have taken their lumps against teams of lesser talent, failing to put together solid performances in back-to-back series and gather momentum. The Dawgs don’t need a decisive victory over Clemson to keep momentum rolling into the weekend, although it would be nice. All the Dawgs need is a strong showing on the mound to keep the game close, and avoid the heartbreaking errors and wild pitches.

Although Coach Stricklin has iterated that he doesn’t believe in ‘encouraging losses,’ a close game can be a ‘respectable loss.’ After the 12-4 win over Savannah State last week, the Dawgs won’t face another team ranked below them in RPI until they play Furman on Tuesday in between the Mississippi State and South Carolina series.


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