Red-hot Georgia baseball tackles No. 1-ranked Arkansas in SEC tourney

Georgia baseball looks for former Oconee County star Cole Tate to stay hot in the SEC tourney after his three-hit performance in UGA's 4-1 win over LSU in the Bulldogs opening game a the Hoover Met. (Photo by Vasha Hunt)
Vasha Hunt

Georgia looks to stay hot in the SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Met, and that’s exactly what it will take to advance.

The No. 8-seeded Bulldogs (31-23) take on No. 1 tourney seed and No. 1-ranked Arkansas (42-10) at 5:30 p.m. this afternoon (TV: SEC Network) in the double-elimination portion of the tournament.

Georgia survived a loser-out first-round game with LSU on Tuesday by a 4-1 count, greatly increasing its odds at landing an NCAA tournament bid in the process.

“Absolutely. I think we’re absolutely in,” said Georgia coach Scott Stricklin, whose team capped the regular season by beating No. 11-ranked Ole Miss by a 13-2 count last Saturday. “I had said before this was virtually a play-in game.”

Stricklin turns to Liam Sullivan tonight against the Razorbacks, hoping the freshman can recreate the dominance he has shown in the latter stages of the season.

“He [Sullivan] pitched really well last time out,” Stricklin said. “He’s a freshman and has a big arm and has had – the last three outings-- has been really good for us.”

The freshman out of Marist has pitched his way into the starting rotation after the already depleted starting pitching rotation lost Ryan Webb.

Sullivan has covered 20.1 innings in his last four starts, allowing five earned runs and 13 hits while fanning 29 batters.

“That fastball jumps at you, 93 to 95,” Stricklin said. “He’s 6-foot-6, so that release point is a little bit different, and it jumps on hitters. It’s tough to get on top of it. He’s able to throw two different breaking balls and a change-up. The Arkansas hitters, they were very complimentary of Liam.”

Sullivan last pitched against Arkansas on May 7, when he pitched 6 innings of three-hit, one-run baseball. Sullivan struck out 11 and only walked one Razorback in the outing.

Georgia dropped a couple of games to Arkansas in the season series, winning the Saturday game 7-3 on May 8.

“Our guys are really excited,” Stricklin said. “I thought we played really well when we went to Fayetteville a couple of weeks ago and had a chance to win the series. They’re a really good team, and we have our work cut out for us.”

Stricklin has reason to be optimistic, as Georgia is 3-3 on the road against No. 1 ranked teams this season. Georgia also played then-top ranked Vanderbilt in Nashville and took the series 2-1.

UGA outfielder Chaney Rogers, who delivered a three-run double that decided Tuesday win over LSU, believes Georgia’s scrappiness will serve them well again in the SEC tournament.

“You always want to get the No. 1 team,” Rogers said. “We wanted to win the series really bad. Kind of gave it up late on Sunday, but we get another shot at them, and I think it’s going to be really fun.”

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