Have a nice walk: the Georgia Bulldogs’ strategy to defeat Ryan Cleveland

Ryan Redding

When achievements for a player include Second Team All-Sun Belt honors, Sun Belt Commissioner’s List and being tied for the most home runs in the conference for the 2016 season, teams have without a doubt heard of that player and will do everything in their power to not help his statistics.

This player, of course, is power-hitting first-baseman Ryan Cleveland, who after the opening weekend already had a team leading seven RBIs and won Sun Belt Player of the Week. So going into this past weekend, the University of Georgia undoubtedly heard of Cleveland’s hot streak and were looking to put it to an end.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but I believe it best to fight talent with talent. If the Bulldogs knew they were going to be facing Cleveland, they should have went to the tapes and found his weak spots. Do not pitch the ball in his sweet spot where he has a chance to knock it over the “Blue Monster,” but find spots where you can get an easy ground out. Instead, UGA chose to take the easy route and allow Cleveland to get a free pass to first in over half of his plate appearances.

With their fear to attack our star player head on, and instead take the easy road, I believe the “Bulldog” mascot is far too fierce for such a soft playing team. Yes, I formally request the Bulldogs get their named changed to something far less aggressive, like the “Puppydogs.”

Cleveland stepped up to the plate 13 times this past weekend, and in six of those attempts to get a hit, the Bulldogs decided they would give him nothing, and one time on Saturday, they even got too scared to throw the ball anywhere but right at him, making it a total of seven free passes for the slugger.

Now, one argument for this many walks is that it is possible the talent of the Bulldogs is just not good enough to pitch strikes, but it is very coincidental that the next highest amount of walks came to Logan Baldwell with only three, and the rest of the team had even fewer.

The only other option I see is the sheer presence of Cleveland walking up to the batter’s box caused so much fear in the Bulldog’s pitchers that he enabled the sweat glands in their hands to produce so much moisture they could not even get a good grip on the ball.

Hopefully, future opponents will not follow in the Puppyd-, Bulldogs’ footsteps. It is unfair to see one of our best players get constricted to walks just because of his previous success. If teams do decide to continue this method, however, surely the rest of the Eagles will step up and drive in Cleveland from first every time he is granted a walk. Then we will see our first-baseman end his final year with a bang.