(Photo via Bulldawg Illustrated/Greg Poole)
Coming into the 2018 season, the University of Georgia was an unranked team coming off of a sub-.500 (25-32) 2017 season. After being swept by the College of Charleston on March 2-4 and giving up four runs to lose in the bottom of the ninth at Charleston Southern on March 5, the Bulldogs have gone 14-2 with sweeps of South Carolina and Toledo. Georgia also managed to take two out of three at Alabama (March 16-18) and versus Texas A&M over the weekend (March 29-31).
Their offensive production has been spread out throughout their batting order, as five Bulldog hitters have 17 RBIs or more. Georgia hitters have struck early in games, as they have a +62 run differential in the first through third innings and a +36 run differential in the fourth through sixth innings.
On the pitching side, the Bulldog staff has posted four shutouts in the last sixteen games.
Although Georgia’s improvements have been an all-team effort, there are two players that have provided offensive sparks in 2018.
During the second week of the season, Keegan McGovern hit five home runs and drove in nine runs. His offensive outburst earned him National Player of the Week and SEC Player of the week awards. After hitting 11 home runs with 73 RBIs in his first three years, he has elevated his power profile, as he has slugged ten home runs with 30 RBI in 2018.
At the plate, the left-hander uses a back-and-forth bat waggle that allows him to time pitches. His balanced stance allows him to shift his weight easily to load and drive a pitch. With his swing, McGovern possess a mostly-flat swing plane, with a slight uppercut, that has led to the third-best slugging-percentage in the SEC (.720).
McGovern hasn’t sold out for power either, as he has shown impressive plate discipline in the middle of the UGA order. The outfielder has drawn 25 walks and only struck out 19 times. He can work counts, as his patience and ability to foul off balls has contributed to his .492 on-base percentage in 2018. In Thursday’s game, Aggies P, Stephen Kolek, stayed away from the fastball in a full count against McGovern in the bottom of the fourth, and throwing a breaking ball resulted in a walk to the slugger. Reaching base successfully gives his teammates many chances to drive him in, and McGovern leads the team with 37 runs scored. His .350 batting average is the highest of his career, as he batted .274 in 2017.
(Video via YouTube, DouglasNow.com)
Keegan McGovern isn’t the only one that can hit for power in the Bulldogs lineup. Michael Curry (OF/DH, Junior) is the active career-home run leader for the University of Georgia with 27. Curry implements a bat waggle with loose fingers when he steps to the plate. Once the pitcher sets and winds up, Curry utilizes a small front-leg kick to time pitches.
After driving a ball to the right-field warning track in the bottom of the fourth in an opening win against Texas A&M on March 29, Curry came up to the plate to face Kolek again in the bottom of the fifth with two men on and two outs in a tie game. Curry took a ball up in the zone for ball one (1-0). On the second pitch of the at-bat, Curry barreled up a breaking ball that was thigh-high just below the belt, which he drove over the center-field wall for a three-run homer.
The home run was Curry’s fourth home run in six games, as of Thursday. The round-tripper also extended Curry’s hitting streak to twelve games, which was eventually snapped in Friday’s game. The three RBIs pushed him past McGovern for the team-lead with 32, and Curry has the second-most RBI in the SEC after the weekend.
Curry also has the ability to hit home runs the other way. In a Tuesday game (March 27) versus Charleston Southern, he showed the ability to lay off a 1-2 breaking ball to even the count at 2-2, which he would swing at as a freshman. Curry stayed on an outside pitch, and drove a home run off the right-field foul pole (4 seconds in the air).
Like McGovern, Curry can hit for average (.349 batting average) and for power. Drawing 14 walks and striking out 21 times has contributed to a .421 on-base percentage in 2018. Monitor his patience and power during April, as Curry has six home runs with a .566 slugging-percentage on the season.
(Video via YouTube, QueenCityVideos)
As conference play continues in April, watch Keegan McGovern and Michael Curry, as they have lead the charge in the Bulldogs’ balanced offense and hot streak since March 6.