With the Southeastern Conference season just around the corner, Georgia needs to build up some momentum in its last tuneup before the games start counting double next week.
Georgia will hold its final non-conference weekend series of the season against Liberty and looks to maintain the forward progress earned last week with a three-game sweep of Alabama-Birmingham.
“I think we’ve got some good momentum going,” Georgia outfielder Hunter Cole said. “We’ve been swinging it well and our pitching’s been pretty solid, especially against UAB. If we can keep rolling like that I think we’ll have some good confidence and be ready to go when (Texas) A&M rolls around that next week.”
Georgia (5-7) will host Liberty (9-3) in a weekend series beginning at 7 p.m. today at Foley Field. Game 2 will be at 3 p.m. on Saturday with Game 3 at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Game 1 pitching matchup features Georgia right-hander Sean McLaughlin (2-0, 2.57 ERA) against Liberty right-hander Carson Herndon (1-1, 2.35).
“In the beginning, we had our pitching but not our hitting,” McLaughlin said. “But here this week we had our hitting and not our pitching. But hopefully this week it will all come together. I think it came together against UAB, but last night (12-7 loss to Western Carolina on Tuesday) we were a little lacking on the pitching side. I think we’ll get both of those ready to go into SEC play.”
Georgia has not been able to completely shake a stumbling 2-6 start to the season. The Bulldogs swept a three-game series against UAB last weekend but promptly lost a midweek home game against Western Carolina 12-7 on Tuesday.
“We’ve played pretty good baseball the last two weekends,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “We’ve pitched pretty good, maybe with on blip in there. The defense has been solid. The bats have been much better than they were the first weekend. We need to keep making progress and doing what it is that we need to be successful. We’ve seen a lot of collective improvement. Offensively, we just seem to be more scary and we’re getting a lot closer to that explosive and balanced lineup that we’ve talked about.”
Maybe no hitter in Georgia’s lineup has been more snake-bit in the early season that Cole. He has seen at least four potentially run-producing line drives snuffed out by standout defense. Even with the hard-hit balls that went right at fielders, Cole is batting .265 with one home run and nine RBIs.
“That’s just baseball,” Cole said. “You can’t really change that. It happens. You’ve got to keep the same approach and have the same swing. You can’t let yourself get frustrated or get impatient. You’ve got to keep working hard and eventually it will start to fall.”
Liberty at Georgia
WHEN: 7 p.m. on Friday; 3 p.m. on Saturday; 2 p.m. on Sunday.
WHERE: Foley Field.
RADIO: WGAU 1340-AM on Friday, WRFC 960-AM on Saturday and Sunday.
VIDEO: Premium portion of georgiadogs.com
RECORDS: Georgia is 5-7, Liberty is 9-3.
RANKINGS: Georgia is unranked; Liberty is unranked.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Friday: Georgia RHP Sean McGlaughlin (2-0, 2.57) vs. Liberty RHP Carson Herndon (1-1, 2.35).
Saturday: Georgia LHP Patrick Boling (1-2, 6.28) vs. Liberty RHP Brooks Roy (2-0, 0.50).
Sunday: Georgia RHP Luke Crumley (1-1, 6.57) vs. Liberty RHP Trey Lambert (2-0, 1.88).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Liberty: Outfielder Ryan Cordell is batting .392 with 15 RBIs. … Second baseman Bryan Aanderud is batting .350 with 11 RBIs. … Nick Paxton hit for the cycle last weekend against Siena. Georgia: Jared Walsh had a career-high four hits against Western Carolina on Tuesday. … Curt Powell is batting .365 and has an eight-game hitting streak. … Nelson Ward leads the team in batting at .407.
SERIES: Georgia leads 6-1.
LAST MEETING: Georgia won 5-3 last season in Athens.
SEASON AT A GLANCE: Georgia had a three-game winning streak snapped with a 12-7 loss against Western Carolina on Tuesday. Liberty had a nine-game winning streak snapped with a 5-3 loss to William & Mary on Tuesday.
NOTEWORTHY: Georgia raised its team batting average 36 points to .302 after getting 33 runs against UAB. … Left-handed reliever Blake Dieterich leads Georgia with 0.64 EA in six appearances. … Jared Walsh and Sean McLaughlin have seen considerable double duty in the early part of the season. Walsh is batting .361 with one hone run and six RBIs in nine outfield starts. He is also 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA with a save as a relief pitcher. McLaughlin is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA as the Friday starter. He is also batting .267 with two RBIs as a part-time outfielder. … Liberty coach Jim Toman was a longtime assistant at South Carolina and North Carolina State with Ray Tanner. … Liberty’s starting rotation has a combined 6-1 record with 1.53 ERA.