Pete Nagel has traveled a long way in the past year.
The freshman right-hander came from one of the smallest high schools in Georgia but two weeks ago he pitched in one of the biggest college baseball parks in the nation at LSU.
“It’s pretty crazy coming out of high school,” Nagel said. “You’re playing all these small-town high school teams and then the next thing you know, you’re walking in to play LSU. You don’t really grasp it until you realize, ‘Wow, I just pitched against LSU in The Box.’ That’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
Nagel had been in Georgia’s rotation earlier this season and had a weekend start against UCLA. When he began to struggle, he moved to the bullpen and last weekend solidified his role as a right-handed closer by picking up his first career save against Auburn. But his first venture into LSU’s Alex Box Stadium in front of 10,000 fans is one of the biggest thrills of his career.
“I was definitely nervous,” Nagel said. “(Michael) Palazzone had to leave early and the coaches came up and told me to go in. I didn’t have much time to warm up. Then Luke (Crumley) came up to me and said, ‘You know, there’s a lot of people here.’ But it was fun. It was a great experience.”
Georgia (28-20) completes its midweek rivalry series against Georgia Tech today at Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta. Right-hander David Sosebee (2-0, 5.06 ERA) is slated to start for Georgia while Georgia Tech is expected to start right-hander Josh Heddinger (2-4, 6.17). First pitch is at 7 p.m.
Nagel is 0-1 with a 3.64 ERA and one save in 47 innings this season. Last week, Georgia coach David Perno adjusted the late-inning bullpen with Nagel and left-hander Blake Dieterich sharing closer and set-up roles depending on matchups.
“Pete has always thrown well,” Perno said. “With this team with his mentality and his ability to throw strikes, he has the ability to be as effective against left-handers as he is against right-handers so it’s a good fit for us.”
Auburn tested Nagel twice last weekend. He came in for Alex Wood in the ninth in Game 1 and pitched around an error to finish off a 5-2 win and picked up his first career save.
In Game 3, Nagel entered with two on and one out in the eight inning. He limited the damage as just one of his inherited runners scored. He pitched a perfect ninth to finish off a 9-3 win as Georgia completed a sweep of the Tigers.
“He doesn’t really have an overpowering fastball but he changes speeds really well,” Georgia catcher Brett DeLoach said. “He’s got all pitches he can throw for strikes. If you’re a pitcher and you can throw a lot of different pitches for strikes, you’re going to have success just pounding the zone and keeping the ball down.”
Nagel has pitched in front of some of the most ravenous crowds in the Southeastern Conference. Although he enjoys the friendly atmosphere of Georgia’s Foley Field, Nagel most enjoys going on the road where most of the stadium hates the guys in red and black.
“It’s great to be here and having the home crowd cheering you on,” Nagel said. “But I think the greatest experience is to be in front of 10,000 people and having dead silence in the stands. That’s a pretty good feeling. It’s always good to prove people wrong and not hear anything from them, just crickets.”
GEORGIA AT GEORGIA TECH
WHEN: 7 p.m. today.
WHERE: Russ Chandler Stadium, Atlanta.
RADIO: 960-AM The Ref.
RECORDS: Georgia is 28-20, Georgia Tech is 29-19.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS: Georgia RHP David Sosebee (2-0, 5.06) vs. Georgia Tech RHP Josh Heddinger (2-4, 6.17).
PLAYERS TO WATCH: GEORGIA TECH — Kyle Wren had the game-winning RBI against Georgia at Turner Field two weeks ago. … Mott Hyde went 3-for-4 with a two-run home run in that Turner Field game. … First baseman Dan Palka is batting .313 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs. GEORGIA — Kyle Farmer had a game-winning RBI single and a three-run homer against Auburn last week. … Brett DeLoach had his only home run of the season in against Georgia Tech at Foley Field. … Curt Powell leads the team in batting at .349 with two home runs and 19 RBIs.
SERIES: Georgia leads 112-96 in games dating back to 1950.
LAST MEETING: Georgia and Georgia Tech have split the previous two meetings this season. Georgia won 7-1 at Foley Field and Georgia Tech won 4-3 at Turner Field.
SEASON AT A GLANCE: Georgia comes off of its first SEC sweep of the season as it took three from Auburn at Foley Field last weekend. Georgia Tech swept three nonconference games at home against UNC-Charlotte last weekend.
NOTEWORTHY: Powell and Farmer were a combined 11-for-29 (.379) with eight RBIs and seven runs scored batting 1-2 last weekend. … Farmer has a 13-game hitting streak. … Peter Verdin is sixth in school history with 44 career stolen bases. … Georgia took a break from midweek games for final exams last week. … Georgia has won four straight, including a weekend sweep of Auburn . … Georgia Tech’s leading home run hitter, Dan Palka, is 0-for-7 against Georgia this year. … Georgia Tech has won six straight against Georgia at home. Georgia has not won at Russ Chandler Stadium since 2004. … Georgia is looking for its first regular-season series win against Georgia Tech since 2008.
— Roger Clarkson