Georgia looking to continue strong SEC start

Georgia and Tennessee get ready for a weekend series.

ATHENS, Ga. — The last time Georgia won five of its first six Southeastern Conference games, it finished below .500 in the league.

First-year coach David Perno was an assistant for the Bulldogs who finished 14-15 in the SEC in 2000 after a 5-1 start. For Perno, that's a good reason to keep this season's strong start in perspective.

Georgia, 13-6 overall after splitting two games with No. 6 Georgia Tech this week, will play host to Tennessee (13-15 overall, 1-5 in the SEC) in a three-game series that begins tonight at 6:30 at Foley Field.

Even though the 5-1 start has Georgia in first place in the SEC East and the Vols are in last place in the division, Perno is not putting much stock in the early gap between the teams.

"I think we've been very fortunate,'' Perno said Thursday. "We opened with Arkansas and Arkansas is a strong program, but they're very young this year. Then I think we caught Vanderbilt at the right time because they had some guys banged up.''

Meanwhile, Tennessee lost three straight to Alabama before losing two of three at home to Auburn last weekend.

"Tennessee has had to play two of the better teams in the conference with two of the best pitching staffs,'' Perno said.

Perhaps the best news for Georgia, ranked No. 29 this week by Collegiate Baseball, is that it has enjoyed its strong start despite breaking in some young starting pitchers.

Freshman Mickey Westphal (3-0, 5.16 earned run average) of Central Gwinnett High School will pitch tonight's opening game of the series after taking wins against Arkansas and Vanderbilt. Senior Bill Sharpton, best known as a reliever, will start Saturday's 2 p.m. game.

Georgia also has turned to such starting pitchers as freshman Jason Fellows (1-0) of Berkmar High and senior Scott Lawson (1-2). Another freshman, 6-foot-6 left-hander Brandon Anglin of Jefferson, Ga., is 1-0 with a 0.84 ERA in three games, including two starts.

"We have expected that strong pitching from those young guys,'' Perno said.

"Those guys have got to continue to go out and give us those good starts.''

Perno said he has not decided who he will start in Sunday's game, scheduled for a 2 p.m. first pitch.

Georgia swept Tennessee last year in Knoxville, but the Volunteers ended the Bulldogs' season with a 19-12 College World Series win.

Charles Odum can be reached here:

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