The first SEC games of the season start this weekend with No.16 Georgia coming to Baton Rouge for three games.
Fri 3/24: 6 PM, SECN+, 107.3 FM
Sat 3/25 : 4 PM, SECN+, 107.3 FM
Sun 3/26: 1 PM SECN+, 107.3 FM
In some ways, Georgia and LSU are pretty similar. Both the Dawgs and Tigers are in the second tier of SEC teams, but talented enough to make a deep postseason run. Coming off an appearance in the WCWS last year, Georgia entered the season ranked 10th in the polls and opened the season on a 12-game winning streak. However, Georgia proceeded to lose three of five games at the Mary Nutter classic, most notably to then No.4 UCLA and No.23 BYU. The losing wouldn’t last long as Georgia would win 14-of-15, including a series win over Kentucky.
Players to know: Sydni Emanuel (.505 AVG, .528 OBP, 14 SB), Cortni Emanuel (31 SB, .462 AVG, .500 OBP), Alyssa DiCarlo (.770 SLG, 8 HR, 40 RBI), Brittany Gray (1.58 ERA, .153 OPP BA, 86 K), Mary Wilson Avant (1.98 ERA, 56 K, .244 OPP BA)
Georgia comes into this game with the top offense in the conference, leading the SEC in average, runs, slugging, on base percentage, RBI and stolen bases. Of those categories the two to focus on are average and stolen bases. Entering Friday, Georgia holds a 36 point advantage over the next closest team in terms of batting average and 21 more steals than the second best team in the SEC, Ole Miss. The Georgia lineup is, clearly, filled with several great hitters with eight regulars hitting above .300 on the year, and four hitting above .400. The steals are not as spread out with the Emanuel’s and Ciara Bryan accounting for the majority of Georgia’s swiped bags. Despite such overall impressive totals, Georgia is not a team which relies on the home run, one of just three teams in the conference to have fewer than 20 home runs entering Friday.
On the pitching end, Georgia is pretty much in the middle of the SEC in most areas. However, they are home run prone, tied last in the conference with 15 home runs allowed. Additionally, Georgia’s defense is a major liability, ranking last in errors and fielding percentage.
What to Watch For
Georgia is looking to put runners on base. The goal isn’t so much about crushing homers, but extending innings through steals and base hits. This means the LSU defense must be on point. In fairness, LSU has been pretty solid defensively overall this season, one of the better teams in the SEC in terms of errors allowed. However, the two games that the Tigers lost to Auburn were decided on on unearned runs scoring, so the defense isn’t totally in the clear. Given the ability of Georgia’s lineup to put the ball in play, the defense should be prepared for an active weekend.
An Early Wakeup
LSU has done a good job of late scoring runs in the first or second inning. With an offense as talented as Georgia’s, it is imperative to make UGA earn it. Part of that falls on the pitching to perform well, but it’s equally important the Tigers make the Bulldogs play from behind as much as possible. Scoring early requires Emily Griggs, Bailey Landry and Sahvanna Jaquish reaching base, and perhaps more importantly, Amanda Doyle and Sydney Springfield driving the runners home.
The biggest reason LSU should be confident in this series is the pitching. Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper have been outstanding of late. Since March 10th, Hoover and Walljasper have allowed just three earned runs each. Even in the losses to Auburn, which were not their best outings, the duo proved they could keep LSU in the game against a good lineup. Offensively, this is a great matchup for LSU as Georgia’s defense should provide plenty of additional chances and the UGA pitching staff is not particularly great. Of course with the struggles of LSU on offense, even a favorable matchup doesn't guarantee a favorable result. This series could come down to defense with the team which makes the fewest mistakes likely winning the series. LSU has the arms needed to control the Bulldog offense, and if the Tiger offense and defense are sufficient, LSU should be able to take the series.