March 17, 2012

Dawgs dig the long ball

As the weather has started to warm, so has Georgia's bats.

After hitting just four home runs in their first 16 games, the 18th-ranked Bulldogs have now hit seven in their last three, including a trio on Saturday that helped carry the afternoon in a 10-5 victory over Tennessee.

"During spring break, the kids got to work, they started getting behind the baseball and driving more balls," skipper David Perno said. "We've definitely seen it coming. They've done a good job. We clocked in here early every morning this week. We knew we were better offensively that we had performed up until this point. It's a confidence thing, it breeds throughout, it's very contagious and now our guys are starting to feel it a little bit."

A number of Bulldogs were "feeling it" in front of Saturday's Foley Field crowd of 2,348.

Levi Hyams, Hunter Cole and Colby May each went deep for Georgia (15-5, 2-0), with every member of the starting lineup collecting at least one hit.

"That's huge for us, getting everybody going," May said. "Everybody has been grinding, working hard in practice, keeping a positive attitude here when we were in that little rut."

Cole, Hyams and Kyle Farmer had three hits each for Georgia, which out-hit Tennessee 18-10.

"I think we're all just kind of finding our element," said Hyams, who was moved to the leadoff spot for the first time this year after a recent slump. "We're hitting more collectively. Early on, we'd get some hits, get some here and there but of late we're starting to string some together."

Hyams is now batting .253 after coming in coming into last Sunday's game against UCLA hitting just .185.

May was experiencing some difficulties of his own before breaking out against the Vols (10-8, 0-2).

"It's been a tough week and a half going into a little rut," May said after blasting his first home run this year. "I just had to stay positive and keep working as hard as I can. Today, I finally felt comfortable again and was just seeing it well."

Georgia's offensive explosion made a winner of reliever Chase Hawkins (2-0), who replaced starter Pete Nagel and responded with 2.2 innings of one-hit relief.

He was followed by Jay Swinford who followed with two scoreless innings before Blake Dieterich blanked Tennessee on three hits the final two to pick up his third save.

The game didn't begin exactly like the Bulldogs had hoped.
Nagel proved to be no mystery for the Vols, who rapped out five hits to jump out to a 5-1 lead in the third before the Bulldogs' bats came alive in the fourth.

Tennessee starter and ace Zack Godley (3-1) never knew what hit him.

Godley, who came into play with a 1.44 ERA, gave up a solo homer to May in the second but in the fourth Georgia batted around, pounding out six hits to grab a 6-5 lead.

A two-run homer by Cole started the comeback, which was followed by an RBI single by Brandon Stephens and a game-tying double by Curt Powell.

Hyams was next and promptly came Georgia's fourth-straight hit to put the Bulldogs in front 6-5.

In the bottom of the fifth, May extended the lead to 7-5 with an RBI single, followed two innings later by Peter Verdin who lined a sacrifice fly to right before Hyams' two-run homer in the eighth accounted for the final score.

"We (Perno and Hyams) had a deal today. I was going to put him in leadoff and he was going to stay with a two-strike approach with a 0-0 count," Perno said. "If he stays there, he's going to stay there and today he did. I told him the power would still show up, and it did."

NOTE: Georgia will go for the sweep Sunday at 2. Michael Palazzone (0-1, 3.71) gets the start for the Bulldogs. Tennessee has not decided on its starting pitcher. … Bulldog men's tennis coach Manny Diaz sang "Take me out to the ball game" during the seventh-inning stretch.