Georgia baseball enters critical weekend

ATHENS – Georgia baseball coach David Perno is all about positive motivation, all about what's up next and how anything is possible.

Then there was last Wednesday afternoon. The Bulldogs were 7-11 in the SEC, coming off a loss to Western Carolina and about to play rival Georgia Tech at home. Before the game, Perno lit into his club.

"It was I guess in some aspects a little bit harsh," he said. "It was basically just, ‘Enough is enough.' If we weren't good enough, I probably wouldn't have done brought it up. (I told them) you're running out of time, that's the thing about it. With as many veterans as we have, it was time for them to make a move."

They have. Georgia has won four straight since Perno's pep talk, whipping the Yellow Jackets that night and then sweeping Florida on the road last weekend.

"He was fired up, but I think it was something that was needed," junior leftfielder Jonathan Wyatt said. "Sometimes you need a kick in the butt to get back going in the right direction. That's what head coaches do, and that's something we needed."

Georgia (28-16, 10-11 SEC) puts its four-game streak on the line starting tonight with the opener of a three-game series against No. 12 South Carolina (34-11, 13-8).

"We're facing a Georgia team that I think is really good, and I think they're playing their best baseball of the season," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said.

It would seem the Bulldogs have South Carolina right where they want them – at home – but Foley Field hasn't been friendly to Georgia this year. The Bulldogs are just 2-7 in the SEC at home.

"That baffles me," first baseman Josh Morris said. "I really can't explain why we do that, but you actually kind of hope South Carolina would be on the road this time."

Perno has done more than just fire up his club. He's shaken it up, too, and he's finally found a lineup and weekend rotation that work for him. The changes have included putting Wyatt in the leadoff spot, moving former Friday night starter Brooks Brown to Saturday and increasing the role of freshman lefthander Nathan Moreau (5-1, 4.46 ERA).

Still, "the biggest thing for us is our confidence level," he said. "We're playing at a level like we were at the beginning of the season. The thing they were lacking was that mental edge, that swagger, that confidence. I was trying to instill in them that they are a good, good baseball team."

They're a baseball team that could find itself tied for first place in the SEC East come Sunday evening. That would require a sweep of the Gamecocks and an Ole Miss sweep against Kentucky. Perno won't bring up those implications to his team today.

"You just play Friday's game one pitch at a time, that's how streaks continue," he said. "You have to have one more good weekend before you can really start changing your sights. You have to follow up and handle some prosperity. When we do that, I think our sights can change."

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