ATHENS -- There's a lot for Georgia baseball head coach Scott Stricklin to be happy about with his program through the first four games.
With a 3-1 record, the team is averaging nearly five runs per game despite just a .211 team average and playing as many as five freshmen at a time. The rotation has been solid, and the bullpen has allowed just three runs through 17 innings, including a handful of innings from four freshmen.
"I thought all the freshmen did really well," Stricklin said. "To win two out of three against a very good team and have four freshmen in the lineup every game, and when we had a freshman on the mound, we had five freshmen on the field. That's pretty hard to fathom."
This weekend, that group of freshmen will be tested in a different way with a small tournament at Foley Field. Instead of a traditional three-game series, Georgia will see three teams in three days with South Alabama on Friday, Cincinnati on Saturday and Western Kentucky on Sunday.
"Every single game there's going to be something different," sophomore left fielder Keegan McGovern said. "We're going to see a different guy on the hill that we don't know anything. We're going to see different people come up to hit."
Georgia expects to maintain the same rotation of Robert Tyler, Heath Holder and Kevin Smith as Connor Jones works back from an illness that vaulted Smith into SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
For the three starting pitchers, the unique format of the weekend won't change much because they'll only be preparing for one team each. But for the hitters and the bullpen, that poses an additional challenge because it means that they have to watch film for three teams and familiarize themselves with three different bullpens and three different lineups.
"When we get through, finished with one of the teams, you've got to turn back around and look at a guy pitching on the hill," McGovern said. "Just like going over film and watching different teams."
For Georgia, the key to coming out of the weekend successfully is to get the offense on par with the 2.61 ERA that the pitching staff has put up through the first four games.
Last season, one of the biggest struggles for the Bulldogs was hitting with men on base. So far, they've done a better job of that, averaging just more than six men left on base per game versus more than eight last season. But Stricklin would like to see his team get more men on base, especially to start off innings.
"The tough part was we didn't get too many leadoff guys on; we didn't get as many big hits as we'd like to see," Stricklin said. "Bottom line is we've got to get more leadoff guys on so we can do a little bit more things and put some more pressure on defenses."
Georgia immediately will get a boost in that area during the weekend with the addition of third-team All-America center fielder Stephen Wrenn back into the lineup. Wrenn was "itching" to get in during the weekend, but doctors prevented him from getting on the field until Wednesday's game at Mercer.
"We're just all ready for him to get back out there, and it's really good seeing him get some swings in and just with him being added to our lineup is going to help us that much more," McGovern said.
This creates a very different dynamic for the Georgia offense and one that Stricklin feels can be more successful.
By putting Wrenn second in the lineup, Skyler Weber can move to the leadoff spot and push Nick King to the bottom of the order. Stricklin called King the "perfect" nine-hole hitter and hopes that the change in order will put more men on base and create more situational hitting opportunities for the middle of the order guys.
"Now we've got Skyler and Stephen hitting in front of Keegan and Daniel (Nichols)," Stricklin said. "Hopefully that puts a lot of guys on base for those middle-of-the-order guys."