UGA keeps to specific goal in facing Florida
April, 20, 2012
By David Ching | ESPN.com
ATHENS, Ga. -- David Perno recently set an offensive goal for his Georgia baseball team to work toward -- one that seems to be the dividing line between success and failure.
“We set out a couple weeks ago to score six runs a game and that’s all it would’ve took [against Furman],” Perno said after Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Paladins. “That’s not a tall order.”
In fact, entering this weekend’s series at top-ranked Florida (29-8, 9-6 SEC), that six-run benchmark has been a nearly automatic signal of victory for the Bulldogs (23-15, 7-8). Georgia is a sparkling 11-2 when it scores at least six runs in a game, but 12-13 when it scores five runs or less.
Before the setback against Furman, the Bulldogs had seemingly broken out of a lengthy slump by winning four games in the previous five days. They took two of three against No. 22 Ole Miss and also beat Clemson and Liberty in that stretch -- scoring at least six runs in three of the four victories.
The clutch hits that came with runners in scoring position in the previous victories were not there against Furman, however. The Bulldogs stranded nine runners and squandered numerous prime scoring chances.
“We just didn’t do enough to produce enough to win that game,” senior outfielder Peter Verdin said. “You’ve got to do a whole lot more than four runs, that’s for sure.”
Verdin was one of Georgia’s offensive spark plugs during the recent six-game grind, reaching base in 13 of 23 plate appearances. But the Bulldogs’ problem has typically been with driving runners in, not getting them on base.
In SEC play, Georgia ranks second in the league with a .291 batting average. But the Bulldogs have still scored fewer runs (63, or 4.2 per game) than all but one team in conference play.
They know it will be difficult to win low-scoring games at Florida, as the Gators lead the conference with 48 home runs and have some of the SEC's top offensive performers in Mike Zunino (.346, 10 home runs, 39 RBIs, 15 doubles and 91 total bases -- home run, doubles and total bases counts that lead or tie for tops in the SEC), Preston Tucker (.322, nine home runs) and Nolan Fontana (.326, 36 runs).
“We’re going to have to go down and play well this weekend, but you can play very well at Florida and still not win,” Perno said.
After starting the season 24-4, the Gators hit a recent lull of their own, dropping two out of three against LSU and also losing to North Florida. They recovered by winning four of their last five, regaining the top spot in the ESPN/USA Today poll by taking two of three from Tennessee and beating rival Florida State last week and then defeating Georgia Southern 8-2 on Tuesday.
Despite his struggles as a relief pitcher against Furman while under the weather, Michael Palazzone -- who allowed all five runs in an inning of work and took the loss against the Paladins -- looked to finally be back to his dominant form from last season when he pitched a complete game last Thursday against Ole Miss.
If Palazzone (1-5, 5.81 ERA) and Alex Wood (5-1, 2.61) begin forming the effective 1-2 punch Perno expected when the season started and the offense begins hitting the six-run plateau more consistently, the Bulldogs will likely advance in the SEC East standings down the stretch.
Their goal is to begin that march this weekend in Gainesville.
“We’re still going to be very confident and hungry going into Florida,” said first baseman Jonathan Hester, who scored twice and drove in a run against Furman. “It’s a big, huge weekend for us. If we can go down there and hopefully win the series at Florida that would be huge for us.”
Projecting Impact Teams in 2015 Recruiting
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35