Last October saw the Georgia football team come onto the field after the Bulldogs scored the opening touchdown against Florida. Do not look for the UGA baseball team to run out on the field after they score their first run of the series this weekend in Gainesville (unless Gordon Beckham hits a homer or something like that). The #5 ranked and first place Bulldogs travel to McKethan Stadium to battle the Florida Gators this weekend. Will the Bulldogs extend their lead in the SEC or will the Gators knock them back to the rest of the conference? Our weekend preview breaks down this series, and notes other series to keep an eye on as we start the home stretch toward the conference tournaments.
SERIES OF THE WEEKEND
#5 Georgia (28-12 Overall, 14-3 SEC East) at Florida (25-15 Overall, 10-8 SEc East)
The Bullodogs find themselves atop the SEC standings after securing their sixth straight SEC series victory last weekend against LSU (2-0-1). The Gators took it on the chin twice last weekend in Lexington, although the Sunday game was decided in the bottom of the 10th. Georgia also picked up a mid week victory against Kennesaw State, while the Gators have had time preparing for this series since Sunday evening.
Coach David Perno's pups have set themselves in prime regional hosting position and a possible national seed. The last SEC loss for the Dogs was a 3-2 ten inning game on the road at Mississippi State way back on March 28th. Since then the Bulldogs have a 13-2-1 overall record with an 8-0-1 SEC mark. The Dogs are led by Junior All-American candidate shortstop Gordon Beckham (.422, 19 HRs, 46 RBI). Beckham has cooled off but is still batting over .400 for the season. Teams have chosen to give him the free pass with first base open. The choice has been a difficult one because sophomore first baseman Rich Poythress (.374, 9, 41) has stepped up by accumilating 58 hits on the season. The team is hitting .297 on the season with 53 HRs and 257 RBIs. Beckham also leads the team with 14 SB.
First year coach Kevin O'Sullivan has his team hitting at a .299 clip with 38 HRs, 12 triples, and 259 RBIs. The Gators are led by Junior Avery Barnes (.389, 2, 15) who has 19 SB on the season. Sophomore Matt den Dekker (.302, 7, 37) leads the team in HR while freshman Josh Adams (.354, 6, 40) leads the team in RBIs and is second on the team in batting average.
Georgia has been pitching well for the most part. It shows as three members of the staff have five wins on the season. Junior Trevor Holder (5-2, 2.15 ERA, 40 Ks) has been the primary Friday starter and last week he went 6 1/3 with only allowing two runs on six hits. Saturday starter, junior Stephen Dodson (5-1, 3.46, 28), went seven innings allowing one run (not earned) on seven hits in Baton Rouge. Junior Sunday starter Nathan Moreau (1-1, 4.50, 34) has not gotten out of the 3rd inning in his past two starts. The major story of the pitching staff has to be senior All-American candidate Joshua Fields (1-1, 0.00, 37). Fields has not allowed a run in 20 2/3 innings of work. He has 11 saves and opponents are hitting .074 against him.
Florida's team ERA is 3.80, the same as UGA. Junior Patrick Keating (7-0, 2.68, 32) leads the way for Gator pitching. Last week he gave up three runs on nine hits in six innings of work in picking up Florida's lone win in the series. Sophomore Billy Bullock (3-2, 3.50, 36) was roughed up last Friday as he gave up six runs (five earned) in four innings of work. Junior Stephen Locke (2-2, 3.45, 34) pitched well last Sunday by only giving up two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings. The team leader in saves is sophomore Kyle Mullaney (3 saves, 6.30 ERA) but he is 0-3 and has that high ERA.
Georgia has a chance to maintain their lead in the SEC. Florida is looking for a chance to slice the lead back down and bring the Dogs back to the rest of the conference. Florida is 20-5 at McKethan Stadium; however, they will be 21-7 after the Bulldogs take two.
REMAINING TOP FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
#23 Kentucky (31-10, 9-9 SEC East) at #15 Vanderbilt (30-11, 10-7 SEC East)
Vanderbilt comes in winners of 11 of their last 12, including a 2-1 series win last weekend versus Auburn. The Wildcats took a series 2-1 last weekend against Florida then split two road games Tuesday and Wednesday. Both teams need a series victory to maintain in the top 8 of the SEC. Commodores take the series 2-1.
#2 Florida State (34-5, 18-3 ACC) at #3 North Carolina (36-7, 16-4 ACC)
After dropping two of three in last weekend's showdown with #1 Miami, the Seminoles hit the road for a series with the Tar Heels. The Heels are rolling right now with an 11 game win streak, including a 17-0 pasting of Charlotte on Tuesday. This would have been the series of the weekend but I did not feel like previewing the Seminoles again. Look for the Heels to take two in our mild upset of the weekend.
#18 Virginia (32-12, 13-8 ACC) at #1 Miami, FL (33-5, 17-2 ACC)
Miami returns home after taking the series from FSU and climbing to the top spot this week. They did drop a mid week ball game to Florida International on Wednesday. The Cavaliers took the series from Wake Forest last weekend and split two games in the mid week. The Cavaliers will be luck to get a victory as I have the Hurricanes sweeping.
#13 Missouri (29-11, 9-6 Big XII) at #6 Texas A&M (34-7, 15-3 Big XII)
The Aggies are on top of the Big XII standings after a sweep of Baylor last weekend and posting victories in 17 of their last 18. The Tigers took the series from Oklahoma last weekend but I do not see them derailing the freight train in College Station. Aggies 3-0.
FIVE OTHER SERIES WORTH KEEPING AN EYE ON
Houston (26-14, 8-4 CUSA) at Southern Mississippi (28-13, 6-6 CUSA)
The Eagles are muddied in the middle of the CUSA standings. Posting wins this week against rival Mississippi State, they come in needing to take the series at home to keep pace and maybe break out of the middle of the standings. Houston is trying to keep pace with #8 Rice before the Owls clinch the title real soon. This will be a tough road trip as the Eagles take two in our upset of the weekend.
#14 California (27-10, 7-5 Pac 10) at #4 Arizona State (32-7, 7-5 Pac 10)
The first of our huge series' in the Pac 10 this weekend. Tempe is the site of this one as the Sun Devils host the Golden Bears. Both teams are in a game behind Stanford for first. The Sun Devils have dropped 6 of their last 10 games including two last weekend against Oregon State. Cal has won 5 of their last 6 games with two wins against Washington last weekend. Arizona State gets back on track and worst case maintains the 2nd spot in the conference standings.
#25 Arizona (27-11, 6-6 Pac 10) at #32 Oregon State (18-13, 6-6 Pac 10)
Another huge series in the Pac 10 this weekend in Corvallis as the Beavers host the Wildcats. Both teams are in the middle of the standings and need victories to boot. Last weekend, Arizona swept Washington State while took the two from Arizona State. Both teams are two games out of first place. Look for the two-time defending champs to take two this weekend.
#16 Coastal Carolina (34-8, 12-3 Big South) at VMI (21-20, 10-5 Big South)
Coastal has aspirations of hosting a regional. This series should help boost the Chanticleers one step closer. They did have their 10 game win streak snapped on Wednesday against Wake Forest; however, they should take this series with ease, 3-0.
#24 St. John's (29-9, 11-4 Big East) at #29 Notre Dame (27-10, 12-3 Big East)
First place in the Big East is on the line in South Bend this weekend. Notre Dame took a series from West Virginia last weekend, while St. John's took a series on the road against Pitt. Should be a good one with the Gold Domers winning two.
Other Series of Note
UC-Davis at #20 Cal-State Fullerton