Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Arkansas expects best from Georgia
Arkansas' Jake Wise is tagged out by Georgia shortstop Kyle Farmer at second at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville on Friday, April 6, 2012.
FAYETTEVILLE - Georgia’s baseball team has the SEC’s worst record at 4-14, but the Bulldogs also have Arkansas’ attention after they beat 20th-ranked Georgia Tech 17-0 on Tuesday night at Turner Field in Atlanta.
In a series that includes 358 games, it was Georgia’s most-lopsided victory over Georgia Tech since 1899, when the Bulldogs beat the Yellow Jackets 25-1 in the second meeting between the schools.
“I think their bats are getting hot, so we’d better come prepared as a pitching staff,” Arkansas closer Colby Suggs said of this weekend’s three game series at Georgia. “We can’t take them lightly at all.”
Georgia (16-26) had 23 hits against Georgia Tech, led by outfielders Justin Bryan (3 for 5 with 4 RBI) and Cole Hunter (4 for 5, 2 RBI) and third baseman Curt Powell (4 for 5, 2 RBI).
“I was shocked,” Bulldogs Coach David Perno told reporters after the game. “Guys just started feeling it.
“We’ve been searching for a boost of confidence, mainly offensively, and hopefully we got it, because we need it this weekend. Arkansas has the best pitching staff in the country.”
The 14th-ranked Razorbacks (27-15, 11-7), who lead the nation with a team ERA of 1.81, open the Georgia series at 6 p.m. Friday.
All of Arkansas’ four remaining SEC series are against teams with losing conference records, including Kentucky (7-11), Tennessee (5-13) and Auburn (6-12), which are battling Georgia for the SEC Tournament’s final two spots.
Only 12 of the conference’s 14 teams play in the SEC Tournament.
“I guess outside everyone is saying. ‘Oh, you’re playing these guys, these guys and these guys,’ ” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “But the way we look at it, we’re playing teams that are scrambling and fighting and they may play harder than anybody.
“When you get down to the last three or four weeks of the season and you’re battling to get into the conference tournament, you’re telling your kids, ‘The only way we’re going to have a chance to make postseason is to get in that tournament and win that tournament.’
“So we’re battling that team that’s backed into a corner and they’re fighting their way out, and they can be dangerous.”
Two Georgia starters, outfielder Conor Welton (shoulder) and catcher Brandon Stephens (elbow), suffered season-ending injuries last fall, as did closer Pete Nagel (elbow).
This season the Bulldogs lost their top reliever, Blake Dieterrich, to a shoulder injury for two weeks before he returned last week, when Georgia went 1-2 against No. 2 Vanderbilt. Shortstop Kyle Farmer has been slowed by a hand injury but is still in the lineup, and starting second baseman Nelson Ward is back after missing two weeks because of a shoulder injury.
Georgia also has had two freshmen dismissed from the team - starting first basemen J.T. Phillips last week and outfielder/pitcher Kyle Carter in the preseason.
“We haven’t had a full deck all year,” said Perno, who led Georgia to College World Series appearances in 2004, 2006 and 2008. “We’ve been fighting it and trying to get guys healthy and together, and this is the closest we’ve been.
“We’re not playing as bad as it seems. We’re starting to put some things together.”
Some fans and media may look at Georgia’s record and think the Razorbacks are set for a sweep. Arkansas’ only SEC sweep in six series came at South Carolina, where the Razorbacks won 15-3, 4-2 and 5-3 in 11 innings.
“We don’t even talk about sweeping,” Van Horn said. “You don’t just sweep people. Sweeps happen if you play great or they play bad. You sweep somebody, that’s a major plus.
“It’s hard to sweep anybody in this league, and I don’t care what the records are.”
Perno said his players have continued to practice and play hard through their injuries and losses.
“We just haven’t won enough, and sometimes that happens, but these kids are a good group,” Perno said. “They’re going to lay it all out there for each other, and they’re going to play the right way.
“Hopefully, our struggles are behind us.”
Arkansas 2, Texas A&M 1 Missouri 8, Florida 2 South Carolina 3, Kentucky 1 Alabama 4, LSU 3 Mississippi 4, Tennessee 3 Vanderbilt 5, Georgia 1
Oklahoma at Arkansas, ppd.
Vanderbilt 10, Louisville 2 Florida 12, South Florida 1 Georgia 17, Georgia Tech 0 Western Kentucky 3, Kentucky 2 Gardner-Webb 7, South Carolina 6 Middle Tennessee 11, Tennessee 5 Texas State 4, Texas A&M 1 Mississippi State 12, Memphis 1 Ole Miss 11, Arkansas State 1
Alabama 7, Southern Miss 4 Missouri State 4, Missouri 2 LSU 4, Tulane 3
TODAY’S GAME All times Central
Kentucky at Ole Miss, 6:30 p.m.
Auburn at Missouri, 6 p.m.
Tennessee at Florida, 6 p.m.
Arkansas at Georgia, 6:30 p.m.
Texas A&M at Alabama, 6:30 p.m.
Kentucky at Ole Miss, 6:30 p.m.
Mississippi State at Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m.
South Carolina at LSU, 7 p.m.
Up next ARKANSAS AT GEORGIA WHEN 6:30 p.m. Central Friday WHERE Athens, Ga.
RECORDS Arkansas 27-15, 11-7 SEC; Georgia 16-26, 4-14
Sports, Pages 17 on 04/25/2013