Even though this is the time of year, between national signing day and the start of spring practice, that most football fans regard as "the offseason," the reality is that late February is a busy time on the Georgia sports calendar, so much so that there are not hours enough in the day to deal comprehensively with every athletic endeavor involving red-and-black-clad student-athletes. Accordingly, I offer you a quick rundown of a few of the more noteworthy events to have taken place in the last couple of days in this, your Saturday sports summary:
Softball: The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs spent the latter part of the week competing in the Cathedral City Classic, opening the California-based tournament on Thursday with a pair of one-run decisions against Sooner State squads. Georgia fell to 19th-ranked Oklahoma State 1-0 in the opener before rebounding to defeat No. 6 Oklahoma by the identical margin. On Friday, the Red and Black got the afternoon underway against 24th-ranked Texas A&M, battling back from a first-inning deficit to defeat the Aggies by a 6-2 final score before tangling with Oregon State and walking away with a 12-7 win in a barn-burner marred by four Bulldog errors. Georgia will close out the tourney at 7:30 tonight against Arizona, which is ranked third in the USA Today poll that has the Athenians at No. 1. The Bulldogs are ranked third in the ESPN poll, which has the Wildcats at No. 1.
Women’s basketball: While Mark Fox’s men were losing to one hated orange-and-blue-clad rival on the road, Andy Landers’s ladies were busy suffering a setback to another such squad in Stegeman Coliseum. Auburn arrived in Athens sporting a 14-13 overall ledger that included a 7-7 conference mark, and the Tigers had not won in the Classic City since 1993. Nevertheless, 17 Georgia turnovers and 35 per cent shooting from the field caused the Lady Bulldogs to drop a 63-58 decision to the Plain
swomen. Coach Landers sounded disgusted afterward with what he characterized as his team’s "careless and sloppy" play, but, anytime a superior Georgia squad loses to a demonstrably weaker Auburn outfit in Athens, you can’t be disgusted enough. I hate Auburn.
Baseball: The Diamond Dogs kicked off the season’s initial home weekend series against No. 16 Baylor on Friday evening. The first four frames were scoreless in a pitchers’ duel that saw Michael Palazzone go five innings as the Red and Black starter. Palazzone faced 23 batters and conceded seven hits, but only one of those went for extra bases, and the junior right-hander struck out six and walked one while holding the Bears to two earned runs. Those two runs came in the top of the fifth canto, in which the visiting Baptists carded three hits, and Baylor added a third run in the sixth stanza off of a leadoff walk and a pair of stolen bases. The Bulldogs finally got on the board in the bottom of the seventh inning, when Chase Davidson drew a leadoff walk and Kyle Farmer sent a two-run shot out to left field. The Bears tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth canto when a pair of two-out singles allowed Baylor to take advantage of a wild pitch, and the game ended with the Texans holding a 4-2 lead in runs and an 11-5 edge in hits in an error-free outing. No Athenian had a multi-hit game in the loss, which easily could have been a rout: Baylor stranded eleven baserunners to Georgia’s three, and the Bears were successful on seven of seven steal attempts.
Gymnastics: With Aaron Murray, Christian Robinson, and Aron White in attendance, the fourth-ranked Gym Dogs hosted No. 5 Alabama in a critical conference meet that ended in a 197.675-197.225 setback for the home team. The Red and Black obtained 9.9s from Noel Couch and Hilary Mauro in the floor exercise, Cassidy McComb on the vault, and Shayla Worley on the beam, as well as a 9.925 from Kat Ding on the vault and 9.95s from Ding on the bars and McComb on the floor. Those impressive individual marks led to some very solid team tallies, as the Red and Black posted event scores of 49.225 on the bars, 49.225 on the beam, 49.35 on the vault, and 49.425 in the floor exercise. While it always hurts to lose, particularly in such a heated rivalry as this one, this was a quality effort by Jay Clark’s squad. There was just no matching the performances of the Crimson Tide’s Kayla Hoffman and Geralen Stack-Eaton (who scored 39.675 and 39.65, respectively, in the all-around), but the Gym Dogs put together their best effort of the season. Georgia came up short, yet the Red and Black have no cause to feel embarrassed by how they competed.
That should get you up to speed. Because I will be attending this evening’s basketball game, my report on that contest will appear on Sunday, and there likely will be a wrapup of today’s and tomorrow’s baseball games on Monday, followed by a preview on Tuesday of the Fox Hounds’ Wednesday date with the LSU Tigers. The game thread for this evening’s SEC East showdown between the Georgia Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks is scheduled to open at noon.