May 8, 2012

Nagel one tough cookie

Who said pitchers aren't tough customers?

Take the case of Georgia freshman Pete Nagel, a former prep quarterback who once played part of a football game for Metter High with a broken hip.

"I was a very intense quarterback," Nagel said before practice Tuesday at Foley Field, where the Bulldogs were busy getting ready for Wednesday night's game at Georgia Tech (7:05 p.m.. CSS).

"It was the fourth game of the year, we were playing Vidalia High. We won 21-20, but I didn't even notice it and played through it the rest of the game," Nagel smiled. "I've always stayed fired up … trying to be Tim Tebow."

Ironically, it wasn't until the following Monday after a visit to Athens that X-rays revealed the break.

"We always have favored football guys. We just think there is a toughness there and a teamsmanship that it's tough to get just playing baseball," said Bulldog skipper David Perno, himself a former football player at Clarke Central High. "But when you play other sports, whether it be football or basketball, you get some other intangibles that just baseball guys might not have."

Nagel is apparently showing Perno something.

After earning a spell in the starting rotation, Nagel has made the move to the Bulldog bullpen where he's giving the Bulldogs some much-needed help on the back end.

The numbers are proving it to be a wise move.

Although Nagel enters Wednesday night's contest with a solid 3.64 ERA, his numbers since moving going exclusively to the bullpen have been even more impressive 2.81 with 13 strikeouts in 16 innings, including 10 punch-outs over his last eight innings.

"I like it. I've always been a strikeout type of person where you come in and strike everybody out. It fits my personality - fired-up intensity, so I like it so far," Nagel said. "It's just a different mentality being a starter and a closer. I was just trying to come in and get outs early, and I did for the most part, but the second time through the order I struggled, so coming in at the back end has helped me a lot."

Perno said the move has made the Bulldogs' bullpen stronger, too.

With freshman Luke Crumley settling into the role of Sunday starter, Nagel's presence has taken some of the strain away from fellow late-inning hurlers Blake Dieterich and Bryan Benzor, along with giving Perno another option from which to choose.

Still, look for Nagel to work his way back into the Bulldog rotation in seasons to come, despite scuffling in the majority of his four SEC starts this spring.

"It was probably the move from the get-go, but we needed some time to get Luke consistent and he allowed that opportunity. He's always thrown the ball well. The times that got him were starts where he ran out of gas," Perno said. "I do think big picture, long term, he's definitely a starter and capable but for this year on this team, his mentality and ability to throw strikes and be as effective against right-handers as he is left-handers, I think it's a good fit for us."

NOTES: Georgia comes into play winners of four straight games since beating LSU 5-3 and taking three straight from Auburn last weekend. … The Bulldogs will start freshman David Sosebee against Georgia Tech (29-19) which will send out freshman Josh Heddinger (2-4, 6.17 ERA) … Bulldog shortstop Kyle Farmer is riding a 13-game hitting streak which has seen him hit .317 (20-for-63) over the stretch. … This Friday night's home game is sold out and as of Tuesday afternoon, only a few general admission seats remained for Saturday's second contest which begins at 1:05. Tickets still remain for Sunday.