Georgia baseball focused on Auburn series, aimed toward postseason

Georgia pitcher Ryan Webb (55) during a game against Kentucky at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Friday, April 16, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

The hunt for a postseason bid is real for the No. 20-ranked Georgia baseball team as it heads into the back half of the conference play.

The Bulldogs (26-14, 9-9 SEC) play host to Auburn (17-20, 3-15 SEC) for a three-game set beginning at 7 PM Thursday at Foley Field (TV: SEC Network).

Georgia would likely earn a spot in the field of 64 NCAA baseball tournament if the season were to end today based on its No. 26 RPI (Rating Percentage Index).

The RPI is a mathematical formula that calculates a team’s success based on: its winning percentage, its opponents’ winning percentages, and its opponents’ strength of schedule. Home losses and road victories are weighted heavily in the formula.

“In this league, if you’re .500 or better, you’re a top 25, probably a top 15 team in the country,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said.

In 2019, 10 of the 14 SEC baseball teams were among the 64 teams in NCAA regionals -- more than 70% of the conference.

Six of those 10 SEC teams won their four-team regions to be among the 16 teams playing in best-of-three Super Regionals. Vanderbilt went on to win the eight-team field at the College World Series.

An SEC team has won the national championship six times since 2009.

“I started glancing at it [the RPI rankings] a couple of weeks ago,” Stricklin said. “It doesn’t mean a ton until you get probably right about now is when you need to start looking at it.”

Georgia still plans to take things “one game, one series” at a time, as this weekend’s series presents an opportunity.

Auburn is just 2-8 in one-run games this season, while Georgia is 7-3 in one-run games with seven walk-off victories.

Stricklin takes nothing for granted, however.

“They are the best 3-15 team I have ever seen in this league,” Stricklin said. “They’re a postseason team, they’re that good. They just haven’t had the luck early on, but they are more than capable of going on a run.”

The Tigers haven’t had a shortage of offensive production, averaging 7.2 runs a game while hitting .290 with 59 home runs. Their team ERA, however, is 5.39.

Georgia pitchers will have one day less of rest with the series starting on Thursday.

Game One and Game Two starters Ryan Webb and Jonathon Cannon don’t anticipate that being a problem.

But UGA reliever Darryn Pasqua will be unavailable for Thursday night’s game on account of the 1.2 innings thrown in the 7-5 loss against Georgia Tech on Tuesday.

Auburn did not have a midweek game due to final exams.

The last time Georgia played a short week kicking off a series on Thursday, the Bulldogs traveled to Vanderbilt and took the series 2-1.

UGA has won three straight conference series, while the Tigers are still looking for their first.

Stricklin anticipates turning to the bullpen in Game Three for the first few innings in hopes that freshman Jaden Woods can finish out the last four or five innings in long relief.

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