Matt Yogus-050211Listen to My Take with Matt Yogus as the Statesboro Herald sports editor analyzes why the GSU baseball team had a bad weekend.
UNC Greensboro took a different approach last weekend when it handed Georgia Southern its first weekend sweep of the season.
The talent gap was obvious — all you have to do is look at the stats to see that the Eagles have a lot more offensive fire power than the Spartans, and well, pretty much everybody else in the Southern Conference — but the Eagles learned two big lessons in Greensboro, N.C.
Talent needs execution to be effective, and depth is an issue.
Talent is obviously important, and GSU has used it for plenty of wins this season, but UNC Greensboro proved that the most important thing in college baseball is execution.
In the three-game series, UNCG put its leadoff hitter on base 12 times. Of those 12 times, seven were free passes — either walks or hit batsmen.
Also seven times, that leadoff runner got to second base on a sacrifice bunt. The Spartans did most of their damage by executing and taking advantage of everything GSU gave them.
Any coach would take that scenario — a runner in scoring position and one out — every single time.
And the Eagles had trouble answering. Sure, Victor Roache, the nation’s leading power hitter, blasted three more bombs in the series to push his season total to 23, but power can only get you so far. In the first two ballgames, the Eagles suffered one-run losses, and each time, they left runs out on the base paths. In the first two contests, they stranded 19 runners. Of those, six were left in scoring position.
Both times, they out-hit the Spartans. It was a testament for UNCG, because the Eagles came into the series having lost only once when out-hitting their opponent.
Game 3 was a different story.
That was when the lack of depth reared its ugly head.
Chris Beck and Andy Moye pitched well in the first two games, with the exception of the free passes, but GSU has been struggling to find that third weekend starter all season long.
Coach Rodney Hennon looked to Joe Lower, a left-handed, junior-college transfer, to get his first-career start as an Eagle. He did exactly what was asked of him, and probably even a little bit more.
He worked five good innings and took a 2-2 tie into the sixth, but it was clear he ran out of steam when he lost to strike zone and put four earned runs in the books.
Georgia Southern has a good baseball team. You don’t beat the No. 1 team in the country 7-0, even if it took everything you had on the mound and it was a Wednesday game, by accident.
The Eagles took two out of three at home against a very good Elon team, and even in that series, they didn’t play particularly well.
They also went on the road to take the series against Charleston earlier in the season, and everybody knows the Cougars can step up to the plate and mash.
When they come into a game, throw strikes and do the “little things” out in the field and at the plate, they make things easy for themselves against anybody in the Southern Conference. They’ve also shown that when they don’t do those things, they have the bats to bail themselves out a lot of times, anyway.
But UNC Greensboro proved that if you play with focus and Georgia Southern doesn’t, the Eagles become very, very beatable.
The end of the regular-season tunnel is approaching quickly. With only three conference sets left on the schedule and a pair of mid-week games against Charleston Southern, GSU is behind the eight ball when it comes to the pursuit of a regular-season SoCon championship.
When your conference tournament has an automatic bid to the NCAA regionals available to the winner, destiny is always in your own hands, but all of a sudden, the Eagles could use a little help during the final three weeks of the season.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.