Since Georgia hasn’t had many late-inning leads this season, closer Jared Walsh has been one of the Bulldogs most under-used assets.
This weekend Walsh will move to a starting role as Georgia returns home from a five-game road swing to face Missouri.
“I’m really excited about that,” Walsh said. “It’s been kind of tough coming in from right field and finding time to get warmed up. Since I’m starting, I’ll be able to go at my own pace. I’m used to starting from before I got here, so I’m excited about it.”
Georgia (11-19, 1-8 Southeastern Conference) will play Missouri (9-16, 2-7) in a three-game weekend series at Foley Field. Game 1 starts at 7 p.m. today. Game 2 is at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Walsh is slated to start Game 3 at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s just too hard to be in there (outfield) every day and then bounce to the pen and try to get loose,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “He’s too good of a pitching arm for us not to be getting more out of him, so we’re going to try to get it from the start.”
Walsh (1-3, 2.55 ERA) has three saves this season as a left-hander out of the bullpen. He is also the everyday starting right fielder and has batted .309 with two home runs and 12 RBIs. This is his first start at Georgia.
“It’s always a problem getting warmed up,” Walsh said. “It’s usually in an urgent situation and I’ve got a half-inning to try to get warm and trying to juggle my at-bats in between.
“I’d be running between the pen and the on-deck circle to come hit. It’s kind of divided. If I’m starting, I’ll have a whole 30-minute segment to devote totally to getting ready to pitch.”
Because he will spend more time pitching, Walsh could play less in the outfield and could either move to designated hitter or first base when he’s not on the mound.
The trio of D.J. Smith, Justin Bryan and Cody Sheedy will likely fill in around Hunter Cole in the outfield. Sheedy is batting .200 with one RBI in 10 starts, Smith is batting .243 with four RBIs in 11 starts and Bryan is batting .083 with two home runs and two RBIs in 11 starts. Dylan Cole has saved Georgia’s last two wins, so he will likely take over as closer.
“We’ve gone to him in right because we couldn’t get enough out of some of the other outfielders,” Perno said. “We’re proud of Hunter, he’s done a good job. But we need more offensively and even defensively for that matter out of Sheedy, Bryan and D.J. We’re kind of full-circle now. We’re hoping that those guys have got enough at-bats that they can start picking it up again. If we can pitch and play defense, hopefully we can find a way to score. Because if we have Walsh in right and we’re still having a tough time scoring, we might as well play better defense and get a little more speed in that lineup and see what we can do.”
The Bulldogs will roll over its pitching rotation this weekend with left-hander Patrick Boling (2-3, 3.83) moving from Saturday to Sunday and right-hander Sean McLaughlin (3-2, 2.70) moving from Friday to Saturday. Walsh will be Georgia’s third Sunday starter this season, following Luke Crumley (1-4, 8.10) and Bryan Benzor (1-2, 6.48). Walsh has had 19 strikeout sand 15 walks in 17 2/3 innings.
“Obviously I need to work on my command,” Walsh said. “I’ve walked way too many hitters. I have such a good defense behind me that all I really need to do is throw the ball over the plate and let them do the work. I think I can make people miss a pretty good amount, but I need to keep it more in the zone. I don’t necessarily try to go out there and strike people out. I need to just fill up the zone more and let them work.”
Missouri at Georgia
When: 7 p.m. today; 8 p.m. on Saturday; 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Where: Foley Field.
Radio: WRFC 960-AM.
Video: ESPNU on Saturday.
Records: Georgia is 11-9, 1-8 in the Southeastern Conference, Missouri is 9-16, 2-7.
Rankings: Georgia is unranked; Missouri is unranked.
Probable starting pitchers
Friday: Georgia LHP Patrick Boling (2-3, 3.83) vs. Missouri LHP Rob Zasryzny (1-5, 3.51).
Saturday: Georgia RHP Sean McLaughlin (3-2, 2.70) vs.Missouri RHP Brett Graves (2-3, 2.94).
Sunday: Georgia LHP Jared Walsh (1-3, 2.55) vs. Missouri RHP Alec Rash (2-1,3.27).
Players to watch:
Missouri: Catcher Dylan Kelly leads Missouri in hitting with a team-high .345 and has 15 RBIs. … Infielder Josh Lester is batting .221 and is second on the team with 14 RBIs. … Outfielder Dane Opel is batting .329 with two home runs and 12 RBIs.
Georgia: Outfielder Hunter Cole is batting 10-for-27 (.370) in his last six games. … Kyle Farmer is bating .319 with a team-high 30 RBIs. … Right-handed reliever Dylan Cole has picked up the save in Georgia’s last two wins. …
Last meeting: This is the first meeting.
Season at a glance: Georgia is 3-3 in its last six games after dropping nine in a row. … Missouri has lost four straight and seven of its last nine, including a three-game sweep by LSU at Missouri last weekend.
Noteworthy: This is the first time Georgia and Missouri have ever faced. … Georgia will shuffle its pitching staff with Sean McLaughlin and Patrick Boling swapping days and Jared Walsh taking a turn at Sunday starter. … Last week Ross Ripple allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings pitched. … Georgia left-hander Jarrett Brown has made a team-high 15 appearances with a 2.20 ERA, 12 hits, seven strikeouts and nine walks in 16 1/3 innings. … Georgia left-hander Blake Dieterich returned after missing two weeks because of shoulder stiffness. … Luke Crumley has pitched four scoreless innings since moving to the bullpen. … Missouri has three players from Georgia. Dylan Kelly is from Roswell, Josh Lester is from Columbus and Michael McGraw is from Newnan. Lester and Georgia first baseman J.T. Phillips played for the Columbus team that won the 2006 Little League World Series. .. Missouri lost its first six games then had an entire weekend series against Northwestern wiped out by a blizzard.