ATHENS — Georgia doesn’t need much motivation to beat Alabama in any sport, but the baseball team has added incentive to sweep the Tide this weekend.
The No. 7-ranked Bulldogs (40-14, 19-9 SEC) play Alabama at 7 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday with sellout crowds at Foley Field awaiting them, eager to cheer on more Georgia dominance.
The Bulldogs have visions of making a run to the College Baseball World Series in Omaha, Neb., and Alabama (30-24, 7-21) played the role of speed bump on Friday night in a 9-4 win.
UGA’s 15 hits on Tide pitching were a season-high in SEC games.
“It was awesome, we had good at-bats one through nine and put some good swings on some balls an they were falling tonight,” said Georgia shortstop Cam Shepherd, who was 3-for-5 with a home run and a double.
“That (a sweep) would be huge going into the SEC tournament, a lot of momentum going into there, but we’re just focused on (Friday night). We just have to take care of that and things will work.”
Landing a top-eight seed for the NCAA tournament is paramount for Georgia, as it would set up UGA not to have to leave Athens for regional or super regional action.
The Bulldogs are 26-3 at Foley Field this season, giving them fewer home losses than any Power 5 team in the nation.
Georgia has the No. 5 RPI after hitting the 40-win benchmark with Thursday night’s 15-hit attack against Alabama.
The only other two UGA baseball teams to reach 40 wins in the regular season both won titles: the 1990 national championship team and the 2001 SEC championship team.
One more win over the Tide, either Friday or Saturday, should be enough to ensure a top-eight seed.
But a sweep would make it a lock.
“I definitely think we have some work left to do,” said Shepherd, who has hit five of his six home runs this season in the past nine games. “We’re not going to be satisfied with two games left in the regular season and the SEC tournament.”
The SEC tournament starts in Hoover, Ala., next Tuesday. UGA won’t play until Wednesday.
The Bulldogs have clinched a first-round bye. The effect of the league tourney on seeding is debatable, but Georgia isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We know what’s in front of us, we know what we’ve got to do in this series,” said freshman fireballer Cole Wilcox, who is 2-0 in SEC starts this season after Thursday night’s win. “Obviously we want to win it, a sweep would be great … ”
Vanderbilt (21-7 league mark) has a two-game lead over UGA in the SEC East Division after beating lowly Kentucky Friday night 16-10. The Commodores can clinch the East with one more win or a UGA loss.
The more realistic race for Georgia is with Mississippi State, which shares the the same SEC mark (19-9) with UGA, but owns the tiebreaker.
Mississippi State is playing host to South Carolina and beat the Gamecocks 24-7 on Friday night.
“We will scoreboard-watch a little, we’re allowed to do that now with Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and we are going to have fun this weekend,” Stricklin said. “We’re going to be loose and easy. We have a chance to win a series (Friday) and that’s what our goal is every weekend. We will worry about Saturday when it gets here.”