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UGA ready for first real road trip

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia baseball coach David Perno took his veteran-laden club across the country not once but twice last season, so he’s hardly concerned about how the Bulldogs will handle their first honest-to-goodness road trip.

“We’ve done the roadies, man. We’ve been all over the country,” said Perno, who took the Bulldogs to Los Angeles last March and then to Corvallis, Ore., for an NCAA regional at the end of the season. “There's no surprises with these guys and the freshmen, they’ll follow the leadership.”

Georgia barely strayed from the Athens zip code in its first 22 games, playing 21 at Foley Field and one neutral-site game against Kennesaw State at the Gwinnett Braves’ Coolray Field, less than an hour away in Lawrenceville, Ga.

The 17th-ranked Bulldogs (16-6, 2-1 SEC) will open their first true road trip today when they visit Vanderbilt (7-14, 0-3), which got swept last weekend at Florida and has tumbled backward after finishing third at the College World Series a year ago.

The Commodores are not without stellar offensive pieces -- outfielder Mike Yastrzemski is batting .362 and shortstop Anthony Gomez is just behind at .361 -- but their pitching (5.23 ERA) and defense (.951 fielding percentage) have been less than impressive. However, Saturday starter Tyler Beede (0-3, 7.71 ERA) went 21st overall to the Toronto Blue Jays in last year’s MLB draft and became the only first-round pick who did not sign with a club, so they are not untalented on the mound, either.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, seemed to have turned things in a positive direction after getting swept by No. 12 UCLA two weekends ago. They have won five of six games since then, including winning two of three in their SEC-opening series against Tennessee last weekend and Tuesday’s 7-1 dismantling of No. 14 Georgia Tech.

"We knew that Georgia Tech was going to be a good opponent. They’re good every year," outfielder Conor Welton said after the win. "We just wanted to come out and have a good game before we head up to Vanderbilt."

Still, with a schedule that was so full of home dates early in the season, Perno expected a bit more from the Bulldogs to this point. Six losses is not a bad total, but he knows Georgia could be in even better position if it closed out winnable games it dropped against teams like Western Carolina and Western Illinois.

“We’re probably a couple games behind pace. But at the same time, if we can get those games back, you’d much rather beat the teams coming down the block than the games we let get away early,” Perno said. “Yeah, we probably dropped a couple that we let get away from us at home, but all in all, we’re in a good place and we’re ready to go on the road.

“I think you can’t tell much about a team until you go on the road and I think it’s a situation that we’re looking forward to it. I don’t know if it means we’re going to play well, but I really think our guys are excited and ready to get out and play somewhere else.”