Georgia annually plays one of the nation's toughest schedules and when doing so with an inexperienced team, growing pains are something to endure. Among Southeastern Conference clubs, the Bulldogs played the second most games against ranked opponents and collected the second most wins. Overall, Georgia went 23-33 (11-19 SEC) including 11-14 against ranked teams.
In 2007, Georgia was one of the youngest teams in the SEC with the second most pitching appearances by freshmen (86) and third most at bats (703) by freshmen hitters. None of the four youngest teams in the league reached the postseason. The Bulldogs closed out the year with 10 straight games against ranked opponents and went 5-5. Georgia played its share of close contests. The Bulldogs went 7-11 in one-run games, 0-6 in extra-inning affairs including 0-4 in SEC games.
As always, the outlook for future seasons hinges in part on the professional aspirations of current Bulldogs and the latest signing class. Georgia had a record eight signees get selected in the 2007 Major League Baseball draft along with four Bulldogs: two seniors (outfielder Jonathan Wyatt and pitcher Adam McDaniel), one junior (pitcher Joshua Fields) and a redshirt sophomore (pitcher Stephen Dodson). All four of the current Bulldogs drafted were not selected coming out of high school as Georgia continues an excellent job of player development under head coach David Perno. Since 2002, a total of 21 Bulldogs have had the opportunity to play professional baseball after coming to Georgia undrafted and an additional seven players have improved their draft status the next time they were selected.
Fields (1-6, 4.46 ERA, 7 SV) was the highest draft pick off the 2007 club. The Bulldog closer was selected in the second round by the Atlanta Braves. He ranks third in school history with 23 saves and sixth in appearances with 78. Dodson has indicated he likely will return in 2008 after getting drafted in the 18th round by Kansas City. He was the team's most consistent starter, going 4-6 with a 3.56 ERA and two complete games.
Wyatt led the team in batting for the second year in a row, hitting .323-6-37 and tallying 16 stolen bases in starting all 56 games. Wyatt was drafted in the 13th round by the Chicago Cubs while McDaniel was taken in the 19th round by the San Diego Padres. Both Bulldogs were a part of two College World Series teams in their career. Wyatt capped his career by recording an SEC-best perfect fielding percentage in 2007, registering 161 putouts and three assists in 164 total chances. Wyatt became the first Bulldog centerfielder to have a perfect season in the field in 25 years (David Loper in 1982).
For the second year in a row, sophomore left-hander Nathan Moreau (6-2, 4.65 ERA) led the staff in wins. He won his last four starts which featured wins over #1 Vanderbilt, at #7 South Carolina, #13 Miss. State and at Kentucky. Georgia looks to return its entire SEC starting rotation in 2008 along with 11 of its 13 pitchers who saw action this past year.
Offensively, sophomore shortstop Gordon Beckham led the team in home runs (13) and RBI (51) while batting .307 in 2007. He has 25 home runs in his career. Junior third baseman Ryan Peisel (.295-4-29) had a career-best 18-game hitting streak during the year, which ranked as the third longest in school history. Beckham and Peisel will be back to anchor the infield while junior Matt Olson (.317-5-43) will direct the outfield.
Georgia will be a much more experienced club in 2008, and the Bulldogs look to boost their offensive numbers and improve on the mound too. The Bulldogs hit only .279 as a team and had a 4.66 ERA. In league action, Georgia's starting pitchers went 9-10 with a 5.82 ERA while the bullpen went 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA. Also, Georgia averaged 5.2 runs a game and only 4.3 runs in SEC games. The 2008 schedule will be another daunting challenge, and the Bulldogs should be better equipped to make a postseason run.