As disappointing as it was to see the Diamond Dogs drop back-to-back conference games to Florida on Saturday and Sunday, we must keep matters in perspective. The Gators played no midweek games between their three-game set with the Wildcats (April 18-20) and their three-game set hosting the Red and Black in Gainesville; accordingly, the Orange and Blue got the baseball equivalent of a home game following an open date in football, giving the Saurians a huge advantage.
Georgia, meanwhile, was coming off of a grueling seven-week stretch dating back to March 7, during which the Classic City Canines played 37 games in 52 days, including six straight weeks of five games each. Nevertheless, the Red and Black have won 23 of their last 31 outings and they just lost consecutive conference contests for the first time in a month.
Now begins a period in which the games are fewer in number but larger in consequence. Between now and the end of the regular season on May 17, Georgia will play eleven games: nine weekend S.E.C. contests and two meetings with Georgia Tech on May 7 and May 13. The Diamond Dogs have no midweek games scheduled this week and seven of their remaining games are at Foley Field, including each of the next four.
These are the Southeastern Conference standings as of right this very minute:
- Georgia (15-5-1)
- Florida (12-9)
- Vanderbilt (11-9)
- Kentucky (11-10)
- South Carolina (11-10)
- Tennessee (11-10)
- Ole Miss (11-10)
- Alabama (10-11)
- Louisiana State (9-11-1)
- Arkansas (9-11)
- Auburn (8-13)
- Mississippi State (6-15)
The Bulldogs' remaining league showdowns are against Ole Miss in Athens, Vanderbilt in Nashville, and Alabama in Athens. Georgia is 18-6 at home, 10-6-1 on the road, 9-3 against the East, and 6-2-1 against the West; the Rebels are 6-7 on the road and 5-4 against the East; the Commodores are 20-7 at home and 3-3 against the East; the Crimson Tide are 4-10 on the road and 3-6 against the East.
So how do the Classic City Canines' chances of winning an S.E.C. title look right about now? Because of the Red and Black's tie in Baton Rouge, it is unlikely that Georgia will finish with exactly the same record as another team; at least a half-game in either direction almost certainly will separate the Diamond Dogs from any other teams. Accordingly, it is improbable that the tiebreaker (winning the season series) will come into play.
As matters presently stand, Georgia's toughest challenger in the East is Florida, which previously led the league and took two out of three from the Bulldogs last weekend. If the Gators sweep all three of their remaining S.E.C. series (at South Carolina, at Alabama, and Vanderbilt), they will finish 21-9 in league play. If the Red and Black take two out of three on each of the next three weekends, the Diamond Dogs will finish 21-8-1 and win the division by half a game.
That's cause for celebration. (Image from GeorgiaDogs.com.)
If the Music City Sailors take the same number of games from 11-10 Tennessee in Knoxville next weekend as the Classic City Canines take from 11-10 Mississippi in Athens, a Vanderbilt sweep of Georgia in Nashville the following weekend would not give the Commies control in the East, as the Diamond Dogs still would lead the 'Dores by a game heading into the final weekend, when Vandy travels to Florida and Georgia hosts Alabama.
Almost one-third of the conference slate remains, so it is far too soon to begin celebrating a conference or even division crown, particularly after last weekend's results in the Sunshine State. Clearly, though, Georgia remains the team to beat and the present circumstances remind us why "take it one game at a time" became a baseball cliché. Every Georgia victory makes it that much tougher for any other contender to surmount what remains a solid Red and Black lead.
The Rebels, who lead the West but would be tied for last in the East, are reeling. After leaping out to a 24-11 start through April 12, Ole Miss has stumbled to a 4-6 record since. The Diamond Dogs need to take this week, rest up for the home stretch, and focus on getting the win on Friday night over a team that is respectable yet vulnerable. A sweep would be great and a series win would be good, but, right now, with a three-and-a-half-game lead in the league standings, Georgia's concentration needs to be on getting each successive win to inch ever closer to clinching the division crown.