Tennessee baseball enters this weekend’s road series at Georgia with a lot of momentum, winning eight-straight games with back-to-back sweeps over Vanderbilt and Mississippi State in Southeastern Conference play. For the first time all season, the Vols have a winning record (11-10) inside league play as the push to secure an NCAA Tournament berth continues in Athens.
The road, however, hasn’t been fond of Tennessee (31-14, 11-10 SEC) as the Vols have won just one true road game all year. Georgia (25-20, 8-13 SEC) has been a little all over the map this season but did record a sweep at home over Arkansas two weeks ago.
Who are the Bulldogs and what is in store for this weekend as Tennessee hits the road? We find out on the weekend preview.
“They have some guys that have been around for a while. That’s the thing that sticks out the most,” Tony Vitello said Tuesday on Georgia. “If you haven’t heard the names that are in that lineup when you go look at it again. They’ll pop up because we’ve played those guys the last couple of years.
“I understand pitching staff wise they have a lot of lefties. We have a good amount of left-handed hitters, so that will be something but we’ll dive into that a little bit more. That’s the thing that sticks out to me. We’re in that quirky period where COVID is still a factor as crazy as that sounds. So, you have some rosters where you have some really older pieces or experienced pieces that are in play. We have a few of those too but they definitely do, especially at the plate.”
Projected Weekend Starters
Friday: RHP Andrew Lindsey (0-2, 3.11 ERA) vs. RHP Kolten Smith (2-1, 4.91 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Chase Dollander (5-4, 4.24 ERA) vs. LHP Charlie Goldstein (3-1, 4.50 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Drew Beam (6-2, 3.13 ERA) vs. TBA
STATS: Tennessee Overall Statistics
STATS: Georgia Overall Statistics
Georgia ranks towards the cellar of the conference (12th) in team ERA with a 6.27 clip. Opposing offenses are hitting .264 (11th) against Bulldog hurlers on the season while the staff has combined for 413 strikeouts (10th). Georgia has allowed 61 home runs this season (11th) and plunked a league-high 61 batters. Per the stat sheet, the staff firmly sits in the bottom-third of the conference in just about every pitching category.
A true freshman, Kolten Smith has transitioned into the starting rotation for weekends and has pitched the past two Friday nights. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has only logged a season-high four innings once this season (against Arkansas), so expect a piggyback or a healthy dose of bullpen help. He totaled a career-high four strikeouts in a start versus Georgia Tech earlier this season and allowed two runs off one hit in three innings of work last weekend in a loss at Ole Miss.
After not seeing any action last season, redshirt sophomore Charlie Goldstein has made 11 appearances this year with seven starts as he, too, transitioned from the bullpen into the starting ration for league play. The southpaw has been really sharp over the last month of action, allowing only seven earned runs over his past 28.2 innings pitched with a combined 25 strikeouts to six walks.
A potential starter for Sunday’s – fellow lefty Liam Sullivan – has made all 11 weekend starts this season as a junior. After beginning the season relatively clean, Sullivan has not been the same since a March 18 start against South Carolina where he surrendered five runs in 3.1 innings of work. Outside of a gem of an effort against Kentucky on April 9 (7.0 IP, 0 R, 8 SO), the southpaw has given up a combined 23 runs across 27.2 innings pitched during the stretch, including being knocked around for eight runs across 10 innings during his past two starts.
Leighton Finley and Dalton Rhadans are backend of the bullpen options with a combined five of the eight team saves on the season.
Who are the Bulldogs?
Preseason picked fifth in the East by the SEC head coaches, Georgia currently sits sixth in the division with an 8-13 conference record. The Bulldogs are a middle-of-the-road hitting team in conference placing second in doubles (88) and fifth in home runs (80) but is also 10th in batting average (.286) and 12th in on-base percentage (.389).
Georgia has won two series in league pay and both were at Foley Field – taking two of three games over Kentucky and sweeping Arkansas at home. The Bulldogs were swept by South Carolina at home, dropped two of three games to Auburn on the road, swept by Vanderbilt in Nashville, dropped two of three games in Gainesville and dropped two of three in Oxford.
Right fielder Charlie Condon leads the way with an impressive .404 batting average, 19 home runs and 57 RBI. All three lead the squad for the slugger batting second in the order. Preseason All-SEC left fielder Connor Tate is having a solid year, hitting .379 at the dish with 13 home runs and 46 RBI in the third spot of the order. First baseman and cleanup-hitter Parks Harber registers a .285 average with 15 homers and 48 RBI.
There’s a ton of pop at the top of the order with those three in particular. From there, a power outage follows as no other starter is hitting above .277 nor has surpassed six home runs and 22 RBI. Leadoff man Ben Anderson has logged a team-high seven stolen bases while Tate has added an additional six.
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