Diamond Dawgs: The Payoff

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Diamond Dawgs: The Payoff


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Han Vance on Georgia baseball: UGA’s first SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for college baseball since Gordon Beckham (2008), senior Keegan McGovern leads the Diamond Dawgs into the postseason Fri. June 1st, 7:30 p.m. in Athens.

A deep, sophomore-rich team with only five seniors opens as Regional host and eight-seed nationally, meaning win to advance in the mini-tournament of four teams, with the (#4) Campbell Fighting Camels and (#2) Duke Blue Devils, both of North Carolina, (#3) Troy of Alabama. Georgia showed superior micro-region dominance in-state this season, and taking out three lower regional seeds from bordering states here would signal readiness from Scott Stricklin’s side.

As eight-seed the Bulldogs are guaranteed the ability to host a four-team Super Regional should they advance in the Classic City. In year’s prior when Georgia has hosted Regionals/Super Regionals, the program has reached the College World Series (eight teams). When UGA last hosted thusly in 2008, I reported as the David Perno and Jason Eller-coached team made it to the final three-game series of the College World Series, won the opening game over Fresno State and looked in command early in their game two, only to finish as national runner-up. {From Big Hairy Blawg: Mark Richt led Georgia to a #2 final ranking in football that same season.}

Georgia may square up with the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Super Regional, should both advance. Texas Tech actually had a slightly-higher RPI than Georgia (#9 to #8) at the end of the regular season but was relegated to the nine-seed. While Florida was number one overall, they had only a two-game better record in the deep SEC than Georgia. The Gators took a late-year series over the Dogs 2-1, UGA salvaging some face finally in the Sunshine State. Georgia finished with the second-best mark in the league, then were bounced 0-2 in Hoover, Alabama, at the SEC tournament, putting the top-eight seeding in peril.

The SEC sent a record ten teams to the postseason, getting an astounding 4-of-8 top seeds (also Arkansas and Ole Miss). Half of the guaranteed-if-you-win eight seeds coming from one conference illustrates the significance of the national power shift in college baseball from the West Coast to the South.

Scott Striclin on NCAA Selection Day 2018 at Foley Field

Clearly a breakout year for Scott Stricklin as a baseball coach in his fifth campaign at UGA, after four leasing seasons, following quantifiable program successes under the last regime. Spoke with him briefly at the sports complex earlier this year, and he was very cordial and seemed composed and appropriately engaged all season as I followed the team for Bulldawg Illustrated.

Athletic Director Greg McGarity also surges in job approval rating, with Kirby Smart coming a play from everlasting glory in year two and locked in, and a popular (undefeated currently, of course) new men’s head basketball coach hired in Tom Crean. Speculation swirling around the department and through its media that Stricklin, who has only one year left on his deal, will get a contract extension when the A.D. considers such after the season concludes. This would cement the status of all the leaders of the so-called collegiate “Big 3”, Football/Basketball/Baseball and likewise position the organizational leader at the tip-top of all three to reap the benefits of a job well done.

Of course, fortunes can change fast in sports. As they can in any postseason.

Dawgs are 23-6 at Foley Field this year and 2-0 at neutral sites, totaling a full twenty-five wins to just six non-road game defeats. Georgia has a real shot to reach, and even win it all, y’all, in Omaha, Nebraska.

Ruling June in ol’ Athens comes first.

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