Georgia baseball trounces Presbyterian 18-3, shifts focus to Missouri in final SEC series

Georgia infielder Garrett Blaylock (24) during a game against Florida at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, March 31, 2022. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Propelled by an explosive win over No. 1 Tennessee last Saturday, Georgia baseball added a small boost to its national resume with a dominant win over Presbyterian on Tuesday night at Foley Field.

The Bulldogs (34-18, 14-13 SEC) will look to ride the momentum from walloping the Blue Hose (22-28, 9-12 Big South) into their final SEC series of the season. They play host to Missouri, with Game One starting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday (TV: SEC Network+) before the SEC Tournament commences on May 24.

UGA coach Scott Stricklin simply sees the Missouri series as the last opportunity to impress the NCAA Tournament Selection before the regular season closes.

“I told the guys, ‘Look, we’ve worked all year to get to this point and let’s not pull any punches,’” Stricklin said on 960 the Ref. “We have an opportunity to put ourselves in a position where we can continue to play home games at Foley Field.

“We know it’s huge for us. We need to play well, need to win this series, and put ourselves in a great position to host a Regional.”

A series win against Missouri seems almost imperative if Georgia wants to salvage its hopes of bringing a Regional to the Classic City. UGA is the definite favorite entering the series as Missouri’s 8-19 conference record is the worst in the SEC.

The Bulldogs also just need a win.

Georgia has lost its last three series, albeit against three very good teams in LSU, No. 21 Vanderbilt, and the top-ranked Volunteers. Entering the SEC tournament on a four-series losing streak with the most recent loss to a conference bottom-feeder would not do UGA any favors.

Tuesday’s offensive eruption could be the product of a momentum boost after the Bulldogs’ 8-3 win over Tennessee on Saturday in Knoxville.

“I was thinking about it this morning,” reliever Jaden Woods said after beating Tennessee on Saturday. “We win this game, this will be a spark for what we do the rest of the season.”

Some of Georgia’s top hitters who struggled through last weekend bounced back for extraordinary performances against Presbyterian. Ben Anderson, who was 1-for-11 against Tennessee, was 3-for-4 with three RBI, a home run, and a walk. Parks Harber, who had been UGA’s hottest bat prior to a 1-for-13 weekend in Rocky Top, was 3-for-4 with three RBI, a double, a triple, a home run, and a walk.

Normally a pinch hitter, Garrett Blaylock filled in for Cory Acton, who was sidelined with a stiff back. The senior made the most of his opportunity, also hitting 3 for 4 with three RBI, a homer, and a walk.

Blaylock could be back in the starting lineup this weekend if Acton is not healthy enough to go.

Cole Tate continued his red-hot return with two doubles, two walks, and four RBI against the Blue Hose. The Oconee County product was 6-for-10 five RBI against Tennessee’s vaunted pitching staff.

Georgia’s Coleman Willis surrendered two earned runs in the top of the first inning before Davis Rokose relieved him after nine pitches. Rokose and six consequent relievers kept Presbyterian at bay as the Bulldogs score 18 unanswered runs going into the ninth.

UGA scored in every inning except the seventh.

The Bulldogs, who are projected to be a No. 2 seed in d1baseball.com’s latest Field of 64 Projections, held the No. 7 RPI ranking in the country going into Tuesday. Fighting for a top four finish in the SEC to earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament, they are locked in a three-way tie for the No. 5 record with LSU and Vanderbilt are just one game behind the team current No. 4 seed Auburn.

All three teams will face more formidable competition than Georgia will this weekend, Vanderbilt and LSU will face off and Auburn will play at Kentucky to finish the season.

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