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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Diamond Dogs Prep For SEC Season

A few baseball tidbits as Georgia gets set to officially open up the SEC season with a weekend series at Foley Field against Auburn

-- Georgia's weekend rotation will be Michael Palazzone (3-1, 7.85 ERA) on Friday, Justin Grimm (1-1, 5.40) on Saturday and Jeff Walters (0-1, 8.83) on Sunday.

-- Palazzone has been up and down this season, but he went five good innings, allowing two runs, in a win over Siena last week.

-- While Georgia was thumped in Tuscaloosa by a score of 13-2 earlier in the year, this marks the Diamond Dogs' first official SEC games. Auburn comes in at 11-5 overall, but the Tigers haven't been tested outside of a weekend series at No. 1 Arizona State last week in which they were swept in three straight.

-- While Georgia's 8-9 record is certainly nothing to be too excited about, there have been a few reasons for optimism going forward. First off, Georgia has played the fewest home games of any SEC team to this point in the season -- just eight total. Secondly, the Dawgs haven't exactly played an easy schedule, facing off against Alabama, Georgia Tech and Florida State -- all top-25 teams -- as well as games against Baylor and Duke, which are both in the "others receiving votes" category.

-- Of course, the two biggest issues facing Georgia have been injuries and pitching. The Dawgs haven't fielded their full projected starting lineup yet this season, but that could change soon.

On shortstop Levi Hyams, who has been in the lineup but limited offensively, head coach Dave Perno said there has been steady improvement. "It looks like he's getting closer to being able to swing and be competitive at the plate," Perno said. "He's still been productive for us from a standpoint of being able to get bunts down, he can run the bases, drew a walk, got hit by a pitch. So he's still doing some things, and just having him out there defensively is huge."

Infielder Kyle Farmer injured his wrist against Stetson in late February, and Perno said he's getting closer, too. "He looks to be probably seven to 10 days away from being able to help us," Perno said. "Defensively, maybe sooner."

Sophomore Chase Davidson should be available this weekend.

-- Of course, while a healthy Diamond Dogs will no doubt be an improved Diamond Dogs, Perno said it still comes back to that starting pitching...

"Things are starting to come on the mend, and I think that's given this team a lift, and like any team, I think you're only as good as your starting pitching," Perno said. "Our guys, the first two weekends, were very good, and we were very good. We were very competitive considering no Hyams, no Davidson, and then we lost Farmer. But our starting pitching was good, so we thought we were OK. But then our starting pitching went South in Week 3, and we looked completely lost. Then it's started to come back around for us lately, and we look better. Once it all comes together, I think we can be pretty good."

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