ATHENS — Georgia baseball heads to Missouri as one of the hottest teams in the SEC, and no player embodies that more than lead-off hitter Josh McAllister.
McAllister is 6-for-14 hitting with 4 RBIs, 2 walks and 5 runs scored since getting moved up to the lead-off spot last Saturday against Kentucky.
“When you lead him off, it’s a nice thing that you can’t really pitch around a leadoff guy,” UGA baseball coach Scott Stricklin said. “He has been such a shot in the arm for us, (and) he kind of gets us going. He plays hard, and it just gives our team a lot of energy.”
The No. 21-ranked Bulldogs (24-12, 7-8 SEC) play the Tigers (11-23, 4-11) in a three-game series beginning at 5 p.m.. on Friday in Columbia.
McAllister is ready to dig into the box and handle whatever heat Missouri throws in the strike zone.
“I hunt fastballs,” McAllister said, “so I think hitting in the leadoff spot is perfect for me.”
One of the biggest adjustments McAllister made this fall working with UGA hitting coach Scott Daeley was compacting his load and getting his front foot down earlier in the batter’s box.
McAllister has proven aggressive swinging the bat early in counts, walking five times while striking out nine times in the 22 games he has played this season.
A look at the top of the batting order provides more evidence of why opponents can’t pitch around McAllister in the lead-off spot.
Corey Collins has a 10-game hitting streak, Connor Tate a 16-game on-base streak and 8-game hitting streak, and Garrett Blaylock is batting .452 in SEC play with a 1.000 slugging percentage.
McAllister, himself, is hitting .364 with six home runs this season.
A redshirt junior, McAllister graduated from Lambert High School in Suwanee, Georgia. He played his junior college ball at Florida Southwestern State College.
McAllister’s starting job wasn’t a foregone conclusion — he split playing time with Buddy Floyd early in the season while competing for the second base job.
“He’s a fireplug on our team,” UGA pitcher Ryan Webb said. “He plays like his hair is on fire, and he really loves playing baseball.”
Georgia batters have followed McAllister’s lead when it comes to reaching base to start frames. The first Bulldog batter of each inning has reached base 17 of the last 25 times spanning the team’s current three-game winning streak.
UGA is facing a Missouri pitching staff that has the worst-in-conference staff ERA at 7.43.
Georgia has hit better (.285 vs .239), homered more (43 vs. 24), and hit with more power (.447 vs. .353 slugging) than the Tigers.
Senior left-hander Webb will get the start on Friday, and sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathan Cannon is expected to go on Saturday for the Bulldogs (TV: 5 p.m., SEC Network). The teams finish with a 2 p.m. game on Sunday.
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