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Baseball Weekend Series Preview: Vanderbilt

(Note: The following look at the Diamond Dogs' upcoming matchup against Vanderbilt was compiled using numbers through Sunday afternoon's outings. The Commodores had a Tuesday night game against Memphis, but that contest against a team Georgia faced in a three-game series earlier in the year was not included in the calculations that follow. Please pardon the omission.)

While I by no means intend to minimize the importance of tonight's showdown with Georgia Tech, the fact is that the Bulldogs have bigger fish to fry this weekend, when the Red and Black journey to Nashville for a clash of nationally-ranked teams in a conference showdown that could end with David Perno's squad bringing an S.E.C. East crown back from the Music City to the Classic City. Due to the importance of the series, the question must be asked: "Who are the Commodores?"

Not those Commodores, smart-aleck.

Georgia and Vandy have compiled identical 20-7 home records, which would be daunting for the Red and Black had they not carded a 10-6-1 mark in road games. At 9-3 against the Eastern Division and 15-9 over top 25 teams, the Classic City Canines come into this weekend's series with confidence, hoping to take advantage of the 4-7 ledger against ranked opponents tallied by a Commodore club that won 15 of 18 games between April 8 and May 4.

In the course of completing a regular-season sweep of the Volunteers for the second straight year, Vanderbilt's Dominic de la Osa tallied his 284th career hit and his 62nd career double, setting school records in both categories. Pedro Alvarez is coming off of his seventh multi-hit game this spring and Shea Robin established a new personal best last Sunday by hitting two home runs in one game.

Ryan Flaherty, who has started all 47 of the Commies' games in 2008, has driven in 50 runs during the campaign while drawing a team-high 33 walks. Pitchers Caleb Cotham, Nick Christiani, and Mike Minor all have E.R.A.s of 4.00 or below and each has notched at least five wins. Minor has two complete games to his credit.

As Quinton McDawg noted, the Diamond Dogs were given some bad news this week: Michael Demperio was lost for the year following a collision with the Rebels' Matt Smith on Sunday. Either Miles Starr or David Thoms will take over for him in the Georgia second baseman's absence.

How significant is the injury to Demperio? While, obviously, we wish him well for a speedy and complete recovery, we hope that his teammates will be as capable of compensating for his absence from the lineup as Suzanne Yoculan's Gym Dogs were when they claimed the national championship following the season-ending injury to Courtney Kupets.

Who knows? With a little luck, something along these lines might be available for the Diamond Dogs in a couple of months!

There is some comfort to be drawn from this fact: Georgia cannot lose the S.E.C. championship in Nashville, but the Bulldogs can win it there. Since the current conference standings give the Red and Black a three-game edge over the 'Dores, even a sweep by the home team would leave the two Eastern Division frontrunners tied, with the Classic City Canines wrapping up the season at home against an Alabama squad that sits at .500 in league play and the Music City Sailors capping off the campaign with a road trip to Gainesville to face the only S.E.C. team to have claimed a series victory over the Diamond Dogs this spring.

Even one win by Georgia over Vanderbilt would enable the Red and Black to retain a two-game division lead over the Commodores with three games remaining; Vandy wouldn't be out of it altogether, but they'd have a tough row to hoe. If the Classic City Canines take two out of three in Nashville, that's the ballgame.

Florida and South Carolina trail the Bulldogs by four and a half games, so the Gamecocks and the Gators could sweep their remaining conference outings to get to 19-11 in league play, but a pair of Georgia victories this weekend would guarantee the division leaders of no worse than a 19-10-1 conference finish. If the 'Dores drop two out of three to the Red and Black in their next S.E.C. series, Vanderbilt will fall to 15-11 in the league and will be unable to catch the frontrunners.

A sweep would be gravy, but it would also be greedy, and no one who has followed this Commodore club could possibly believe that even a Georgia squad this good could notch three victories on the road against Vandy. The key is simply not to get swept. One win probably is all the Diamond Dogs need; if they turn two, you can stick a fork in this race, because it is done.

Go 'Dawgs!