The banged-up Georgia baseball team is in survival mode after adding its star shortstop and ace hitter, Cole Tate, to its list of injured players.
“We’re trying to hang on, batten down the hatches, use all the analogies you want,” UGA coach Scott Stricklin said. “We’re just trying to hang on and trying to get every win we can in the league, and then hopefully, the last three, four weeks of the season, we’re pretty close to 100% and then we can maybe hit our stride.”
The No. 13-ranked Bulldogs (25-8, 8-4 SEC) look to take Game One of the series against Texas A&M when they host Texas A&M (20-12, 6-6) at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Foley Field.
Georgia’s latest loss to injury might hurt the most as Tate is expected to miss several weeks with a stress fracture in his leg.
Tate, who has 99 career starts, leads the team on and off the field. The 23-year-old graduate is hitting .331 with 16 RBI and has been the defensive anchor for the infield.
Georgia third baseman and team captain Josh McAllister will slide over to shortstop, where he has seen limited action.
McAllister made several eye-popping plays at shortstop in Georgia’s 17-15 win over Kennesaw State on Tuesday.
Parks Harber, who has seen plenty of time at first and third this year, will take over at third.
Chaney Rogers will move in from the outfield to play first, and Cole Wagner, typically a designated hitter, will play right field on Thursday night.
“[Tate] is a big, integral part of the team,” Harber said. “I think last night, Josh did a really good job at shortstop and had some really good at-bats, so I’m not worried. It sucks losing Cole and he’s such a big part of our team, but the next guy, we’re all going to be ready.
“We’re all going to make up for his absence for sure.”
Georgia’s starting pitchers have taken the most injury hits this season. UGA lost its No. 3 and No. 4 starters to season-ending elbow injuries within the first two weeks of the year.
The team also lost Liam Sullivan right before conference play began and on the weekend of his return, No. 1 starter Jonathan Cannon was scratched with discomfort in his forearm.
Sullivan’s first start since his injury was on Sunday. He pitched three hitless innings before getting into some trouble in the fourth inning, ending his day.
Sullivan, who threw on a limited pitch count last weekend, will have more pitches to work with against the Aggies on Saturday.
Nolan Crisp, who started the season as a relief pitcher, will start on the mound Thursday night. The junior struggled out of the bullpen this year but has been dominant in his two starts for the Bulldogs.
Crisp allowed 3 hits and a walk for two earned runs against Florida on April 2 and gave up 4 hits and 2 walks for an earned run Friday against South Carolina. He pitched 4.1 innings in both outings.
“He’s that guy that if you’re going to be in a fight, you want him on your side,” Stricklin said of Crisp.
If they can stay healthy from this point forward, the Bulldogs appear to be on the back half of the injury nightmare that has haunted them so far this season. Cannon, who feels great according to Stricklin, is scheduled to return next Friday at Alabama. Guys like Rogers, Sullivan, Dwight Allen, and Corey Collins are all returning to full health, as well.
In the meantime, the Bulldogs will have to keep scrapping for conference wins.