UGA baseball team gets fresh start as SEC play begins at Texas A&M

Ready or not, the Southeastern Conference season has arrived for Georgia.

UGA baseball team gets fresh start as SEC play begins at Texas A&M
Roger Clarkson

The Bulldogs head into league play today at Texas A&M with a sub-.500 record, but the team doesn’t want to get too caught up in what has happened before this afternoon’s first pitch.

“I’m excited and I think it’s going to be good for us,” Georgia left-handed pitcher Blake Dieterich said. “It’s always exciting to start SEC play. It’s kind of a new beginning when we can get going again. It couldn’t start off any better than to go out there to A&M and welcome them to the SEC.”

Georgia (8-9, 0-0 in the SEC) and Texas A&M (11-7, 0-0) will play a three-game weekend series to start their conference schedules, marking Texas A&M’s first SEC series in program history.

Georgia stumbled out of the box to a 2-6 start and is 6-3 since the beginning of March. But Georgia’s schedule has not included any major-conference competition like what the Bulldogs will see this weekend.

“The record doesn’t worry me,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “What worries me is how we can play well and still lose games because of one half-inning of not executing. That’s what worries you, not the 8-9, because you know you’ve got to win these (conference) games. Actually since March, we’ve been pretty good. We’re three innings away from being 8-1. That’s what worries me is that we let one half-inning beat us too much and we’ve to find a way to minimize it.”

The latest of those half-innings of poor play came on Wednesday when the Bulldogs gave up five runs on four hits and two walks in the sixth against Appalachian State. The Mountaineers went on to win 8-5.

“We’re going in with a sub-.500 record,” Dieterich said. “You guys have been around the game long enough to know what happens in February is not as important. We’re 6-3 in March. We’ve started winning some games at home and that’s important. Appalachian State was a good team. We could have played better in the second game but I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

Georgia has scored at least five runs in 10 of its last 12 games. Georgia began the season by scoring 13 runs in the first five games.

“Everything is starting to show up,” Dieterich said. “We’re starting to really hit the ball and that was part of our identity. We’re scoring runs late in games which is always going to help us. Our pitching is going to be fine.”

Georgia has tried and failed twice in the last week to climb above .500 for the first time since opening night. Georgia moved 7-7 when it won two in a row against Liberty to begin last weekend. But the Bulldogs dropped the Sunday game 11-8. Georgia beat Appalachian State 9-4 on Tuesday to get to 8-8 but dropped the Wednesday game 8-5.

“We’re 0-0 in league play but we’ve got to decide who we want to be,” Perno said. “If we want to decide to muddle in mediocrity, then this start is going to haunt us. But if we step up and start playing a little more consistently. We’re still playing at a high level but it’s got to be consistent. If we do that and get out front a little bit here, then this start won’t haunt us and there won’t be the urgency to improve the record. We’ve just got to get going in league play.”

Georgia brought back a solid group of seniors this season, led by shortstop Kyle Farmer, third baseman Curt Powell, catcher and designated hitter Brett DeLoach, right-handed pitcher pitcher Bryan Benzor and Dieterich. Production from the seniors has been uneven through the early part of the season.

“Our seniors can break us and our freshmen can only help make us,” Perno said. “Our veterans can break us if they don’t perform like they’re capable of performing, we’re going to have a tough run. If those guys step up like they have for the most part in March, we’ve been good. When they haven’t, we haven’t been good.”

UPCOMING SERIES

Georgia at Texas A&M

WHEN: 8:35 p.m. Friday; 4:05 p.m. Saturday; 2:05 p.m. on Sunday.

WHERE: Blue Bell Park, College State, Texas.

RADIO: WRFC 960-AM.

VIDEO: Fox Sports Southwest on Sunday.

RECORDS: Georgia is 9-9, 0-0 in the Southeastern Conference; Texas A&m is 11-7, 0-0.

RANKINGS: Both teams are unranked.

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS

Friday: Georgia RHP Sean McLaughlin (3-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Texas A&M RHP Kyle Martin (1-2, 4.07).

Saturday: Georgia LHP Patrick Boling (1-2, 4.37) vs. Texas A&M RHP Daniel Mengden (3-1, 2.03).

Sunday: Georgia RHP Luke Crumley (1-2, 6.91) vs. Texas A&M TBA.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Texas A&M: Infielder Mikey Reynolds leads the Aggies in batting with a .458 average and has 10 RBIs. … Catcher/infielder Cole Lankford is batting .357 and has a team-high 13 RBIs. … Pitcher/catcher Daniel Mengden leads the Aggies with three wins and a .203 ERA. He is also batting .298 with 10 RBIs.

Georgia: Third baseman Curt Powell is batting .509 in his current 13-game hitting streak. … Outfielder/pitcher Jared Walsh has two saves and a 0.90 ERA on the mound and is batting .347 with eight RBIs at the plate. … Shortstop Kyle Farmer is batting .359 and has a team-high 20 RBIs.

LAST MEETING: This is the first time the teams have met.

SEASON AT A GLANCE: Georgia has won six of nine in the month of March but has lost two of its last three. Texas A&M lost two of three against No. 8 Cal Sate Fullerton last weekend but beat Houston Baptist in a midweek game.

NOTEWORTHY: This is the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams and the first SEC series in school history for Texas A&M. … Georgia outfielder Cody Sheedy cut his hand making a catch in foul territory on Sunday and did not play on Tuesday or Wednesday. … Georgia’s Justin Bryan had two home runs in the two games against Appalachian State and raised his batting average to .120. … Georgia leadoff hitter Nelson Ward is batting .444 in his current 10-game hitting streak. … Georgia’s Saturday starter Patrick Boling pitched two shutout innings on Wednesday against Appalachian State. … Blake Dieterich’s next pitching appearance will be his 81st and tie him with Rip Warren for No. 7 on Georgia’s all-time list. … Texas A&M beat Houston Baptist 6-5 on Tuesday by drawing back-to-back bases-loaded walks in the ninth inning. … The last time Georgia made a road trip to Texas was in 2010 when it went 1-1 at Baylor. … Tuesday’s win against Houston Baptist was No. 300 in Texas A&M coach Rob Childress’ career. … Texas A&M has never played Georgia but is 122-84-3 against current members of the SEC and 78-52-2 if you don’t include fellow SEC rookie Missouri.

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