April 5, 2012

Will road benefit Dawgs?

If the Georgia baseball team is to get back to the business of securing itself a spot in the postseason, the time to do something about it is now.

At 18-11 overall, 4-5 in the SEC, the Bulldogs aren't exactly what you'd call out of the picture, but with three of the next four weekends on the road, the task facing David Perno's squad appears to be a difficult one - beginning with this weekend's trip to 13th ranked Arkansas.

"I think our urgency has got to rise. We're kind of in survival mode. It's just part of what goes with being in our conference, Perno said. "But we're used to it. Obviously, we had to play survival mode for six weeks at the end of last season, if not longer, really, so it might be what we need to tighten up our focus and our urgency. I actually believe the road is what we need. We need to get away from the distractions, the monotonous home regime, classes, parents, girlfriends and everything that goes with it. You love it, but obviously it's gotten stale for us and we're looking forward to going on the road, not just to one of the best places in college baseball, but just to get out town."

Freshman Hunter Cole concedes he can see the benefit of that.

Currently on a 12-game hitting streak (.455-5-10), Cole agrees that getting out on the road for a spell may be just the tonic the team needs.

"It's always great to go on a road trip with the team," Cole said. "It gives you a chance to bond. We all get along really well and when we're just together as a team, it's great."

The Bulldogs will be getting plenty of time to do that in the weeks that lie ahead.

April will see Georgia play just one series at Foley Field - April 12-14 against Ole Miss. After the Rebels, the Bulldogs are gone for back-to-back weeks at top-ranked Florida and perennial power LSU.

"This is tough, but at the same time, if we want to get or have the expectations to do the things we want to do, these are the teams we need to beat," Perno said. "Obviously, Kentucky is a very good team, however, coming into the season it's Arkansas, it's Florida, it's LSU, it's Ole Miss and through the years those are four teams who are always among the better teams in the country. We feel we can match up if we can execute."

But so far, that's been somewhat of a problem.

Although Georgia is batting a league-best .307, the Bulldogs still aren't scoring runs at the rate they need to to be competitive, while their pitching and defense over the past week has suffered as well.

The Bulldogs sport a 4.52 ERA while their fielding percentage has dropped to .975 after committing 29 errors in their 29 games.

"Things will even out. It's a war of attrition. You've just got to hang in and survive and at some point we'll put it together. I've got too much confidence in our leaders, our rotation and our pitching depth. None of our strengths have showed up yet, not in league play," Perno said. "We've seen glimpses of it all season, but in league play, in those nine games our pitching has been average to below average, our defense has been very average for what we consider to be the kind of defensive club we have."

NOTES: Alex Wood (3-1, 2.55) starts Friday night's first game (7:35), followed on Saturday (3:05) by Michael Palazzone (0-3, 5.03) and Pete Nagel (0-0, 3.41) on Sunday. … Blake Dieterich(3-1, 0.84 ERA) has assumed the closer's role with Tyler Maloof likely sidelined for the year with a lat injury. Dieterich has converted five of his six save opportunities.