Georgia has stumbled out of the gate to start conference play.
So the chance to step out of the league to play a different brand of arch nemesis might come as a relief as the Bulldogs start their midweek series against Georgia Tech today.
“It’s definitely a big series,” Georgia third baseman Curt Powell said. “It’s probably a little bit more important now that we’re struggling. But you always want to beat Tech.”
Georgia (12-21) will host No. 20 Georgia Tech (23-9) in the first game of the three-game mid-week series at 7 p.m. today at Foley Field. Probable starters are right-hander David Gonzalez (1-2, 7.63 ERA) for Georgia and left-hander Jonathan King (2-2, 3.60) for Georgia Tech.
“If you can’t get up for Tech then you’ve got problems,” Georgia outfielder-pitcher Jared Walsh said. “That’s something that can really turn your season around. Last year, we spanked them here (7-1 at Foley Field). After that they took us to Turner and beat us there (4-3 at Turner Field) then turned around at beat there (8-6 at Georgia Tech). That really helped their season out and got them rolling. That’s what I’m expecting for us too.”
Georgia comes off of its most humbling defeat of the season as it blew a five-run lead to lose at home to Missouri 8-5 on Sunday. Georgia has lost 13 of its last 17 games overall and has won only 2 of 12 in the Southeastern Conference. Georgia had problems closing the final two games of the Missouri series. The Bulldogs let most of a five-run lead slip away before holding on to win 6-5 on Saturday. Then Georgia blew a five-run lead on Sunday to lose 8-5.
“We’ve got early morning workouts tomorrow (Monday),” Powell said. “We’ve got to get our minds right on our off day after that. We’ve just got to get ready to try to lock down these games. It’s our in-state rival so it shouldn’t take much to get locked in.”
Georgia has had problems in mid-week games as well.
The Bulldogs are 3-6 this season in non-weekend series mostly against small-conference opposition. However, Georgia split a home-and-home series against Clemson out of the Atlantic Coast Conference two weeks ago.
Georgia has won back-to-back midweek games at Clemson (5-3) and at Kennesaw State (2-1) last week. The three games against Georgia Tech will be Georgia’s only remaining midweek games against a big-conference opponent for the rest of the regular season.
“They’re all important, and don’t get me wrong,” Georgia coach David Perno said on Sunday. “Yeah, if you look at it, it might be the only series that we have a chance to win of any substance. Obviously, you’ve got SEC games that are going to be huge coming down the stretch. You’re taking 12 teams to the tournament but this one (Sunday’s loss to Missouri) is a killer. You’ve just got to regroup and improve in a big way and in a hurry, and we’ve got to learn how to win.”
Georgia Tech at Georgia
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Foley Field.
Radio: WRFC 960-AM.
Records: Georgia is 12-21, Georgia Tech is 23-9.
Rankings: Georgia is unranked; Georgia Tech is No. 20 by Baseball America.
Probable starting pitchers:
Georgia RHP David Gonzalez (1-2, 7.63 ERA) vs. Georgia Tech LHP Jonathan King (2-2, 3.60).
Players to watch:
Georgia Tech: Infielder Matt Gonzalez is batting .378 with two home runs and 30 RBIs and has stolen nine bases. … Outfielder Kyle Wren is batting .391 with two home runs, 19 RBIs and 18 steals. … Catcher-relief pitcher Zane Evans is batting .345 and leads the team with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs plus two saves.
Georgia: First baseman J.T. Phillips batted 6-for-11 (.545) in the weekend series against Missouri. … Outfielder-Pitcher Jared Walsh batted 4-for-12 with three RBIs against Missouri. … Third baseman Curt Powell leads Georgia with a .373 average.
Series: Georgia leads 112-97 in games played since 1950.
Last meeting: Georgia Tech took two of three last season. But Georgia won in Athens 7-1.
Season at a glance: Georgia Tech went 2-2 last week but dropped two of three Atlantic Coast Conference games at Duke. Georgia also went 2-2 last week and lost two of three Southeastern Conference games at home against Missouri.
Noteworthy: This is Game 1 of the Peach State rivalry. Game 2 will be on April 23 at Turner Field and Game 3 will be on May 14 at Georgia Tech. … Georgia limps into the intra-state series having lost 13 of its last 17. … Georgia Tech is 2-4 in its last six games. … Both Georgia and Georgia Tech played Kennesaw State last week. Georgia won 2-1 at Kennesaw and Georgia Tech won 9-1 at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets also lost 10-1 at Mercer last week. … Georgia had two shaky bullpen outings last weekend against Missouri. Georgia led 5-0 after four innings on Saturday but held on to win 6-5. Georgia also led 5-0 after four innings on Sunday but lost 8-5. … Georgia Tech’s leading hitter Brandon Thomas has missed a month because of illness. He was batting .441 with one homer and 16 RBIs before he went out. Duke shut out Georgia Tech twice last weekend. … Georgia has been shut out twice in the past week, at Kentucky on March 31 and at home against Missouri last Friday.
— Roger Clarkson covers Georgia baseball for onlineathens.com. Follow him on Twitter