After a series win against Ole Miss last weekend, Mizzou is staring down the barrel of another must-win series. This weekend’s opponent is the Goergia Bulldogs. They’re coming off a series win against Tennessee, but have had their fair share of ups-and-downs. The Dawgs were swept by Vandy and South Carolina and even dropped a series to Ole Miss. At the same time, the Bulldogs have taken series wins from Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee. So you never really know what you’re going to get from this team.
As the standings sit currently, Mizzou is the final team in Hoover, and Georgia is just one spot ahead. With just two weekends of SEC play left, the importance of this SEC series won’t be lost on either team. So let’s break down what Missouri can expect from UGA this weekend.
At the Plate
If there’s one thing you take from this preview, let it be this name OF Charlie Condon. The redshirt freshman is kinda quietly putting together the best season of any player in the SEC not named Dylan Crews. Yes, I said it, better than Jac Caglianone, better than Ethan Petry, and better than Wyatt Langford. Currently, Condon is 2nd in the SEC in OPS, HR, wRC+, and wOBA. If you’re wondering who’s first in all of those, I’ll let you take a guess... it’s Dylan Crews.
Anyways back to Condon, this kid unbelievably good. He’s slashing .410/.507/.831 with 22 HR and 61 RBI with a good amount of season left. Oh, and you can’t forget his absolutely ridiculous 195 wRC+. His 3-homer performance in last weekend’s series against Tennessee helped him tie the SEC freshman record for HR in a season. It feels like it’s only a matter of time before he breaks that, and it could be in Columbia this weekend. Although, I’m sure he’ll have to keep slugging balls over the fence to prevent Ethan Petry from catching him.
Perhaps the most incredible thing about Condon is he sort of came out of nowhere. He was a good, not great, recruit out of high school (PG ranked him No. 400 in Class of ‘21), and he redshirted his first season in Athens. To do what he’s done in Athens this year is nothing short of spectacular. The expectations were high for him to be an impact bat, but no one saw a probable first team All-SEC season coming.
Charlie Condon just mashed his 22nd home run of the season and is now tied for the SEC freshman record!pic.twitter.com/FC9eQ33trX— Stephen Schoch (@bigdonkey47) May 7, 2023
Somewhat overshadowed by the spectacular year that Condon is having is 5th year senior OF Connor Tate. He’s been an impact bat all five years in Athens, but Tate is playing at the highest level of his career this year. The outfielder is slashing .376/.464/.671 with 14 HR and 50 RBI.
Tate doesn’t pose quite the same power threat that Condon does, but he’s not to be dismissed earlier this year he hit 3 HR in the span of three innings. To give some perspective to just how good Tate has been this year, his 161 wRC+ would lead Missouri this year. I’d be shocked in Tate doesn’t cause problems for the Tigers this weekend.
The final bat I want to highlight in this dangerous UGA lineup is 1B Parks Harber. The junior really exploded onto the SEC scene last year with a strong sophomore campaign, and he’s picked up right wehre he left off this year. He’s slashing .277/.338/.582 with 16 HR and 53 RBI. Those totals have already exceed his RBI total from 2022 and tied his HR total.
The difference between Harber and his teammates Condon and Tate is he isn’t quite as consistent as the other two. This is evidenced by 113 wRC+. It’s very good, but it’s not at the Condon or even Tate level. This doesn’t mean Missouri won’t need to dance carefully around Harber, if the Tigers can limit Condon and Tate, they better hope they don’t lose focus with Harber at the plate because he’ll make you pay.
On the Mound
Pitching is where things get dicey for the Bulldogs. Their 6.07 team ERA is third to last in the SEC, and an injury to Charlie Goldstein last weekend is only making things worse. Goldstein had been exactly the consistency that the Georgia rotation needed with a 3.62 ERA in 37.1 innings, but he got hurt last weekend against Tennessee. The injury was a brutal blow to an already subpar UGA rotation. As a result, the Bulldogs have named just one projected starter for this weekend.
Freshman RHP Kolten Smith starts on Friday night for UGA. He’s had a mediocre freshman season, but he’s found himself in a big-time role for the Bulldogs. In 24.1 innings Smith has a 4.81 ERA and 21 strikeouts to 15 walks. His 5.34 FIP and 6.62 xFIP indicate he’s actually been overachieving, however.
In his starts, Smith has primarily focused as something between an opener and starter. His longest outing of the season is 4 innings three weeks ago against Arkansas. He’s also demonstrated some command issues as of late. In his last 9.1 innings across three starts, he’s walked nine batters.
The Tigers can expect Smith to sit in the low 90s with his heater and mix in a good curveball and changeup. This might be one of the least intimidating Friday night guys in the SEC, and the Tigers need to capitalize on an opportunity to take the early advantage in the series when Smith gets the start Friday night.
Kolten Smith (@BaseballUGA) enters out of the ‘pen & immediately showing off his stuff. 91-93; comes out clean & easy, sharp CB @ 77, power fading CH @ 85. Really knows how to pitch- CB-CH-CB in order here. ‘25 Elig pic.twitter.com/DsOfSiAsmo— PG College Baseball (@PGCollegeBall) March 4, 2023
Saturday’s and Sunday’s starters are still up in the air, but I have a good guess of who could be getting the ball for UGA. Liam Sullivan has made 12 starts for the Bulldogs this year and been a key contributor tho their rotation for two years now. Some recent poor form might have Sullivan’s spot not as secure, but I still expect he’ll get a start.
The junior LHP has a 4.94 ERA and 64 Ks in 54.2 innings this year. His 6.27 FIP and 5.57 xFIP leave even more to be desired, but he does bring plenty of experience that not many players can say they have. You can expect Sullivan to sit 90-93 with his heater and mix in a slider, curveball, and changeup.
Liam Sullivan (@BaseballUGA) mixing & matching, moving all 4 pitches around. Living 89-92, AS CH @ 81 (vid) has been the go-to, landing upper-70s SL, flashed CB @ 75. ‘23 Elig #PGDraft pic.twitter.com/JvRWk2LQo3— PG College Baseball (@PGCollegeBall) March 4, 2023
With Goldstein’s absence from the rotation projecting the third and final starter for UGA this weekend is somewhat difficult, but there’s one name who’s made a lot of noise in the last week. Freshman LHP Jarvis Evans entered Goldstein’s start last weekend in relief after Goldstein left with injury, and tossed a gem. 5.1 innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball with 7 strikeouts against Tennessee was a clear statement from Evans that he received SEC co-Freshman of the Week honors.
The thing with Evans is his numbers this year haven’t exactly been great in limited usage. He has a 4.80 ERA in 15 innings with 19 Ks and just 5 BBs. Those numbers are by no means concerning for a freshman, but his 8.46 FIP raises some eyebrows. Is that trustworthy enough to get an SEC start in a crucial series and what could be a rubber-game? I don’t know so we will just have to wait and see what UGA does.
After taking down Ole Miss last weekend, the expectation for Missouri has to be getting back to Hoover this year. The first step in doing that is protecting home turf and Georgia is definitely a beatable team. Considering how well Auburn is playing (they took the series from LSU last weekend), this series feels even more crucial before the Tigers head to Alabama for that final road series.
Friday @ 6 pm on SECN +
Saturday @ 2 pm on SECN +
Sunday @ 12 pm on SECN