The beauty of the early stage of a college baseball season is that while games carry a good bit of weight, their gravity doesn’t kick in as much. A mix of non-conference games allows teams to feel things out, getting set for intense rigor of conference play.
For Georgia’s baseball team, the clock is ticking toward the time of year that doesn’t include mulligans.
The Diamond Dawgs are entertaining Toledo this weekend at Foley Field, the final weekend series before SEC play starts next weekend at Alabama with the home conference opening series the next weekend against South Carolina.
Streaky has been the theme for Georgia so far this year. While a 7-1 start to the season included a series win against Georgia Southern, the Dawgs got dropped down a notch last weekend on the road in Charleston, losing four in a row to College of Charleston and Charleston Southern. UGA got back on track before leaving the Low Country, topping The Citadel 9-4 on Tuesday.
Part of fine-tuning things for the Dawgs will come on the pitcher’s mound as they work to solidify their weekend rotation. Chase Adkins gets the shot at the Friday starter’s role this week, and his recent outings have helped earn that trust by way of a 1-0 record and 2.93 ERA. Emerson Hancock (0-1) 5.06 gets another shot at a weekend start, penciling in for Saturday’s tilt. Ryan Webb gets the ball on Sunday afternoon - it’ll be his first career start in a year in which he has totaled a 4.00 ERA.
Looking to perhaps bolster its bullpen, Georgia has shifted Kevin Smith to a relief role. The Diamond Dawgs will look for Smith to put up similar numbers to Tuesday against the Citadel. He threw two and a third of an inning, striking out five. If Smith can continue to be solid out of the bullpen, it could be a tremendous asset for Georgia going forward, especially when opting to have other starting pitchers throw shorter outings. And with two career saves as well, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Smith to be an option for save situations as well going forward.
Another pitcher to eyeball going forward? Aaron Schunk, who also plays third base. He has shined as of late on the mound and at the plate. He is on an eight-game hitting streak and also gave up five hits over two and two thirds of an inning Monday in what was his pitching debut.
Last weekend’s hitting of Schunk along with first baseman Adam Sasser and right fielder Tucker Bradley, each of whom hit no worse than .333, is something that the Diamond Dawgs aim to build off of at the plate. At the same time, Georgia will look to right the ship of the heart of its batting order. Last weekend, left fielder Keegan McGovern, designated hitter Michael Curry and shortstop Cam Shepherd combined to hit .178.
Needless to say, Georgia’s heavy hitters will look for a reversal of fortunes just before the start of SEC play.