Gritty Georgia baseball riding momentum into SEC tourney showdown with LSU

Georgia pitcher Luke Wagner (27) during a game against Ole Miss on Foley Field in Athens, Ga. on Thursday, May 20, 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles)
Mackenzie MIles

Georgia heads to the SEC Baseball Tournament with a “win and in” mentality this week after keeping NCAA tourney hopes alive on Saturday.

The Bulldogs blasted No. 11-ranked Ole Miss by a 13-2 count on Senior Day at Foley Field, showing the sort of resolve that will be needed to make any sort of noise in Hoover, Ala.

RELATED: Georgia baseball shows great resiliency, tops Ole Miss in home finale

“We’ve put ourselves into a position where we are playing meaningful games in late May,” Stricklin said. “Getting into the postseason, it’s who hot. We played well on Saturday, and helpfully that momentum can carry over into the SEC Tournament.”

Georgia is the No. 8 seed and opens the SEC tourney against traditional powerhouse and No. 9-seeded LSU at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday in an SEC Network-televised game.

“I think the winner of this game gets in,” said Georgia coach Scott Stricklin, whose team jumped from No. 46 to No. 41 in the RPI rankings with the win on Saturday. “I think the loser still has a chance to get in, but I think the winner is in. You can’t only take seven teams from the best conference in the country.”

The SEC had 10 teams in each of the most recent two NCAA Baseball Tournaments. Six of the top 11-ranked teams in the most recent Baseball America poll are from the league.

Still, Georgia is squarely on the bubble with its RPI 10th-best among the league teams and a pitching staff that has lost four of its top five to injuries.

Stricklin said at the moment, freshman Luke Wagner (3-3) is the likely starter on Tuesday with fellow freshman Jaden Woods also expected to pitch. Wagner left Friday’s game in the second inning after taking a come-back hit off his shin.

Offensively, UGA looks to account for the absence of leading hitter Connor Tate. Tate, who tops the Bulldogs’ batters with a .344 batting average and 10 home runs, is expected to miss the SEC tourney with the leg injury he suffered last weekend.

The top four teams in the SEC get byes in the tournament and await the winners of the four first-round, single-elimination games. A win over LSU would move Georgia into an eight-team double-elimination format as well improve UGA’s RPI; the Tigers have a No. 23 RPI.

SEC Baseball Tournament Bracket, Hoover Met, Ala., 2021
SEC , Dawgnation

“LSU is playing their best baseball right now,” Stricklin said. “They are really talented like all LSU teams are.”

The No. 9 seed Tigers, have won 9 of their past 13 games. It’s a sure bet the LSU fans will represent at the Hoover Met. The program has won 6 of the last 12 SEC Baseball Tournaments, most recently in 2017, and is noted for its rabid baseball following.

Stricklin’s Bulldogs have shown some bite as well in bouncing back from extra-inning losses last week to Georgia Tech and Ole Miss to win Saturday’s Senior Day Game.

“Those are two gut-wrenching games,” Stricklin said. “Those were games we had in hand we felt we should have won, and then we don’t. That can do something to your psyche.

“For us to bounce back on Saturday, it showed this team has a lot of toughness and lot of grit.”

The SEC has announced there will be limited attendance at the SEC Baseball Tournament as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All-session ticket books can currently be purchased for $110 each. Single-session tickets, if available, will sell for $20. All seats are reserved. Tickets can be purchased at www.SECticketoffice.com or by calling 1-877-332-7804.

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