Despite hitting five home runs in three games against one of the top teams in the conference and in the nation, Georgia was swept by the Lady Volunteers in Athens this past weekend. Georgia had chances to make some noise and try to steal a win or two from Tennessee, but could not seem to get the big hit at the right time. In the end, Georgia was defeated 10-3, 9-2, and 6-1. Although it would seemingly be time for panic with the Dawgs having been swept in their last two SEC series, think otherwise. Not only is Tennessee one of the most experienced and decorated teams in the nation (pitching and offensively), but they also have been playing some tough competition all year long and have gotten to see some caliber of play that we have not.
The three losses to Tennessee remind me so much of the losses in 2009 to Florida in Gainesville when the Gators swept the Dawgs convincingly, but yet both the Bulldogs and the Gators were in Oklahoma City for the WCWS in June. With each loss and with each clash with a tough foe, our young Dawgs are getting better and better, especially on the pitching end. Despite giving up 33 hits in total to the Volunteers over the weekend, between 8-10 of those hits were flares to no-man’s land, bloop singles, and weak grounders through the left and right side. I feel confident that with a little defensive work (much-needed), that the girls will truly be able to hang in there with anybody. Just like in 2009, it takes a little while to get acclimated to tough SEC play, and I have faith that this team can still make it very far. Keep up the hard work, ladies!
In the losses, I was able to see some really good things and also noticed some particularly bothersome things. Here is a short list of things I took away from the games:
1. Base-running: We still look uncomfortable at times on the base pads, and base running cost us some key outs in the series against Tennessee. Granted, sometimes you simply get dealt some tough luck when running the bases, but this team must balance their aggressive base-pad tendencies with a more focused approach if we are going to steal bases and move runners into scoring position successfully.
2. Clutch hitting: Yes, we were able to knock five bombs out of the park off of the Renfroe Sisters, but look at the instances where the dingers were hit! All five home runs hit by our Dawgs in the series were solo shots–this hurt us a lot! If we were able to just get one or two people on in front of just half of those home runs, the scores would have looked much more competitive and we would have certainly stood a shot at taking a game or two! The same thing applies for some big hits over the weekend…it seems all the big hits and extra-base hits came with nobody on base. The one really positive thing that I took away in terms of our hitting is that we can hit the ball hard against good pitching, but can we learn to do it at the right time? In time, I think so.
3. In the Circle: No doubt about it, the Bulldogs have four very talented pitchers on their roster, but the big question this year has been who to throw when, and what pitch sequences to use for each pitcher against different types of opposing batters. I really saw a lot of positive things from Chelsea Wilkinson this past weekend, and I think if she can find confidence in her fast drop ball, then she is going to have a plethora of success this season and in the future. Geri Ann did a great job in game two against the Vols, but walks started piling up and Tennessee definitely took advantage of that. Our young pitchers tend to want to give up a walk to a batter, rather than giving up a hit, and so in doing this they simply pick around the batter and the zone. For our young hurlers to be successful in the SEC and in the post season, they are going to have to have a cut-throat mentality and go right at opposing hitters. It has to be their best pitch versus a hitter’s best swing. Simple as that. Morgan Montemayor struggled in the opening two innings of play in the Friday game against Tennessee, but was brilliant in the final innings of the Sunday match-up. I have said it once, and I will say it again: MoMo needs to be a Craig Kimbrel-esque closer and we will get timely, positive results out of her. She could easily be one of the best closers in the game, despite the “closer” role not being used very frequently in fastpitch.
Georgia continues play tonight (Wednesday) at 4pm and 6pm against Western Carolina here in Athens. The Western Carolina Catamounts have an overall record of 15-26 and have amassed a 5-10 SoCon record. Georgia will look to add two more wins to their resumé before heading to Columbia, South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks this weekend.
As always, Go Dawgs!