What with all the talk of your Super Bowls, Signing Day, Georgia basketball, the world’s impending global-warming induced apocalypse, whether Eddie Murphy can expect back-to-back Oscar nominations for this year’s turn in “Dreamgirls” and next year for “Norbit”, and whether my musk smells more like manly rawhide, an Irish morning on the glens...ahh the glens, or a pungent yet alluring mix of gasoline and fresh kiwi....its easy to lose sight of what is easily the biggest story this week...UGA baseball opens up this Friday night at Foley Field against defending national champion Oregon State.
You can almost hear the drunk guys on the deck heckling the opposing rightfielder...
So to ease your transition into the coming college baseball season and to help you sound like the smartest guy in your (insert one): A) Sad, soul-sucking cubicle row, B) Bank-breaking, loan-check swallowing classroom, C) Despair-breeding teacher’s lounge, D) Workers-comp laden construction site, or E) Other....I give to you the 2007 UGA Diamond Dawgs Preview:
Using little to no hyperbolic language, the Diamond Dawg’s 2006 season was a roller coaster ride of jaw-dropping, biblical, apocalyptic proportions. Finishing 47-23, the Dawgs reached the College World Series for the second time in the past three seasons. In getting to Omaha the Dawgs finished second in the SEC East, won thrilling regionals and super-regionals (against South Carolina...man, I love beating them in EVERYTHING) and tallied the second most season wins in program history. Unfortunately, once in Omaha the Dawgs dropped their first two games in heart-breaking fashion to Rice and eventual national champion, Oregon State and were bounced from the double-elimination tournament. Repeated pleas via emails to the NCAA office and some unspeakable favors performed for the higher-ups in charge in Omaha by me were of no avail...the season ended.
The world's smallest picture.
But like the mythical Phoenix Cardinals rising from the ashes...wait...that’s wrong...like the mythical Arizona Cardinals rising from the ashes, the 2007 season starts anew against the opponent that ended the Dawgs highly successful 2006 campaign, Oregon State. Many of the familiar faces from the 2006 squad are gone:
SP - Brooks Brown (1st round pick – Arizona Diamondbacks)
Brooksie is gone but maybe we will all be fighting to acquire him in a not-so-distant fantasy league draft
SP – Mickey Westphal
RP – Rip Warren (free agent signee – New York Mets)
C – Jason Jacobs (20th round pick – New York Mets)
1B – Josh Morris (12th round pick – Atlanta Braves)
OF – Joey Side (6th round pick – Arizona Diamondbacks)
OF – Bobby Felmy (22nd round pick – San Francisco Giants)
OF/DH – Kyle Keen
Consequently, the Diamond Dawgs will heavily rely on new faces, especially amongst the position players. So without further adieu...
There is returning talent here despite the departure of Friday night ace Brooks Brown and steady innings-eater Mickey Westphal. Four sophomores look to take on increased responsibility in the rotation:
Here they are - Beckham, Holder, Moreau, and Leaver...wait not Beckham, we'll get to Beckham later.
Nathan Moreau – sophomore - LHP – 6’4” - (8-1, 5.50 ERA) – started 12 games as true freshman, was named #3 starter behind Brown and Westphal toward the end of the year, and tied Derek Lilliquist’s UGA freshman record for wins with eight. I imagine he will be our #1 out of the blocks.
Trevor Holder – sophomore - RHP – 6’2” – (5-3, 4.70 ERA) – started eight games last year, appeared in 21 games. However, he was DYN-O-MITE in the post season notching a 2-0 record with a 0.87 ERA in over 10 innings of work (including one start). Hopefully that hot hand continues into this year.
Jason Leaver – sophomore - LHP – 6’1” - (3-2, 4.95 ERA) – started seven games but one of those games was the Regional Championship win against Florida State and man...what a start it was (5 IP, 1 ER) for a true freshman.
Stephen Dodson – sophomore - RHP – 6’5” – (1-0, 4.86 ERA) – used mostly in relief last year (19 appearances, 1 start), but he’s the same height as me so I like him.
There are a few true freshmen and a junior in the mix but I would anticipate the vast majority of the starts to come from some combination of the above four sophomores. These four give us a nice righty-lefty mix and having a year under their belts (a year in which all four received substantial, pressure-filled experience) should help.
Herein resides the Diamond Dawgs’ biggest superstar....
Closer: Joshua Fields – RHP – 6’0” - (3-2, 15 SVs, 1.85 ERA) – a consensus preseason 1st Team All American by practically every publication and/or organization covering college baseball. Fields is also ranked as the #8 Major League prospect in college baseball by Lindy’s. Throws upwards of 98 MPH...this guy is wicked. Last year was 2nd Team All-American, 1st Team All-SEC and led the SEC in saves (while also tying a school record). Yessir, come the 8th or 9th opponents are going to be in trouble...now about getting to that 8th or 9th....
Rest of the relievers:
Adam McDaniel – senior - RHP – 6’1” – (2-1, 8.53 ERA) – converted third baseman, last year was his first on the mound for the Dawgs. Made 21 relief appearances and in a truly troubling sign....accolades include “Member of All-SEC Academic Honor Roll and SEC Good Works Team”. Reminiscent of the old baseball cards for players like Rene Gonzales, on the back would say things like “Rene enjoys fishing in the offseason”.
That’s...about....it, the aforementioned freshmen and junior who figured to get the occasional start will also be called on to round out the bullpen. There is some indication that a true freshman, Ryan Woolley (RHP, 6’1”) might be a step ahead of the others in the bullpen...but that’s just me reading between the lines of press releases and Perno quotes. Initially, there doesn’t seem to be that lock down middle reliever like Rip Warren, hell there doesn’t seem to be a Rip Taylor or Warren Beatty...but I have confidence one of these guys will emerge.
Listen, if he can pitch and we can count on him the clutch I don't care what he wears out on the mound.
Tomorrow (or Thursday)....position players and prognostication....until then...
I have no reason for posting this picture other than for its sheer comic value.