I would like to start off this section by talking about the winners -- but, really, Kentucky: You lost to Georgia by 20?! The "Bat" Cats allowed 22 hits -- all singles -- and added four errors for good measure to give Georgia it's first SEC series victory of the season. It is not enough at this point that Kentucky will not play in Hoover this year; instead, the league must immediately review the Cats' right to play baseball in the SEC. Ever. That said, congratulaions to Georgia for not mailing it in on the last series of the year and for making the season's outcome legitimate.
Team Speed Kills (May 22, 2010)
SB Nation’s SEC-centric weblog tends to treat the league and its extremes with a sense of humor (hence, the name "Team Speed Kills"), so the above passage shouldn’t be taken too seriously. However, the foregoing quotation contains more than just a kernel of truth to it, which raises a question. Just how surprised should we be that the Diamond Dogs won the season’s concluding series over the Bat Cats when Kentucky had a berth in Hoover on the line?
Granted, 2010 still must be considered the worst season in Bulldog history. Georgia finished with a 16-37 overall ledger and a 5-23 record in SEC play while posting losing marks at home (12-17), on the road (3-17), and at neutral sites (1-3). As a staff, the Georgia pitchers posted a team earned run average of 8.51, by far the worst combined ERA in school history, and this year’s squad lost more games than any previous Bulldog club. The Classic City Canines finished last in the conference standings.
Although the oft-invoked excuses of injuries and youth were inadequate to explain some of the Diamond Dogs’ deficiencies---most notably, those on the mound---there were some signs that the hitting was getting better toward the end of the spring. The Athenians ended up with the league’s eighth-best team batting average (.301) and finished just three points shy of fifth place. Those numbers ain’t great, by any means, but no one figured the Red and Black would conclude the campaign with numbers even that good, seeing as how the Bulldogs carded the conference’s third-most strikeouts (409), second-fewest at-bats (1,879), second-fewest hits (566), fewest home runs (45), fewest walks (175), and fewest runs (323).
Hidden among all those many, many negatives were a couple of positives. For instance, Georgia’s fourteen triples were tied for the second-most in the SEC, and sophomore outfielder Zach Cone captured the triple crown by leading the team in batting average (.363), home runs (10), and runs in which were batted (53). More importantly, a young club began ever so slightly to put it together at the plate down the stretch. In their last seventeen contests, the Classic City Canines notched ten or more hits a dozen times, including eleven outings with double-digit hit tallies in the final fourteen games.
The situational hitting remained inconsistent, but the better numbers in the "H" column provided some aid to the Diamond Dogs in the "R" column, as well: Georgia scored eleven or more runs four times in their last eight outings. In the season’s final five games, Georgia put up 71 hits and 45 runs, all against SEC opposition.
While the pitching did not keep pace with the hitting in the final leg of the season, the starters at least indicated an increased ability to last past the opening innings of a game. In a three-game stretch beginning on May 8, the Georgia starters combined for three innings pitched, twelve hits, fourteen earned runs, six walks, and four strikeouts.
From May 14 forward, however, the Bulldog starters lasted five or more innings five times in six games. During that concluding stretch of the season, starting pitchers for the Red and Black surrendered more than three earned runs just twice and combined for 35 strikeouts and just fifteen bases on balls.
Admittedly, signs of an upswing were not as readily apparent on the mound as at the plate; in their final two SEC series, the Georgia starters collectively pitched 37 innings and gave up 39 hits, while the bullpen proved to be as erratic as ever, so I still think David Perno should make a few phone calls this offseason, but, when the news has been all bad for as long as anyone can remember, I’ll take any morsels of good news we can unearth.