The Georgia baseball team opens their 2020 season at home in Foley Field on Valentine’s Day, Friday, Feb. 14th with a three-game series against Richmond. Expectations are high this season because the Diamond Dogs are a consensus top-ten baseball team in the preseason polls and could return to Omaha for the first time since 2008. Although the Bulldogs came up short in 2019, we are going to look at five reasons why Omaha is a realistic goal for this year’s team. Reason number three is the return of local players Connor and Cole Tate, who could be a vital reason for the Bulldogs’ success in 2020.
Georgia baseball lost some of its offensive star power in the offseason, and the Tate twins are two of the top choices to replace those missing pieces in the lineup.
Redshirt sophomore Connor Tate will more than likely be the DH on opening day according to head coach Scott Stricklin. Last year, Connor played in 40 games batting .270 with three home runs and 19 RBIs.
But it was in SEC play where he shined. In 30 plate appearances in league play, he hit .330 with a home run and 12 RBIs.
“He’s our DH right now for Opening Day, although he’ll still be playing the outfield, as he’s a really good athlete who’s done a nice job improving defensively,” Stricklin said in a preseason press conference. “Last year John Cable gave us a big bump at the position, but we still didn’t know who was going to be our right-handed DH until we got into SEC and he (Tate) turned it on. I think Connor Tate has a chance to have a breakout year.”
Connor is strong and towering build, standing at a towering 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. He certainly has the power to drive the ball out of the park.
“Last year I was mostly the guy to come in a clutch situation, so that role I think has really helped me get ready for this year,” said Connor Tate. “I’ll be ready.”
Connor didn’t play much last year, but he performed when it mattered. Stricklin counted on him last year as a solid pinch-hitter as well. He had a walk-off RBI-single to end the longest game in school history, a 3-2 win over No. 24 Clemson in 20 innings, as that game lasted six hours and 35 minutes. He also provided a game-tying RBI-double in the seventh inning of a 3-1 win over No. 5 Arkansas in the SEC Tournament.
Connor’s brother, Cole, is another player to watch this season for the Bulldogs. As a sophomore, Cole appeared in 38 games with five starts (4-3B; 1-DH) and batted .192 with one double and five RBIs in 26 total at-bats.
Cole is known as a pretty stout defender and saw some action at short shop last season (1.000 fielding percentage in 10 chances ) and third base (.909 fielding percentage in 22 total chances, two errors).
In 2019, Cole had a pair of hits and two RBIs during a doubleheader sweep of Florida. He also went 1-for-2 with an RBI and first career double at No. 5 Miss. State. Cole also was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll and the J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Honor Roll
As a freshman, Cole saw limited action but did deliver an RBI-single in his first career at-bat during season-opening 22-9 win over Georgia Southern. He also collected an RBI on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in a 12-2 victory over Georgia State.
Connor is more known for his big bat and Cole is more of a solid defender, but both twins possess the ability to be weapons in Stricklin’s arsenal this season. The two brothers played at Oconee County High School in Watkinsville under Warriors’ head coach Tom Gooch.
“They’ve been the cornerstone of the program for several years both offensively and defensively,” Oconee County coach Tom Gooch said to OnlineAthens back in 2016. “They’ve always been leaders by example but I want them to step past that this year and be vocal leaders and help push kids, hold kids accountable, make them work hard and almost be player-coaches.”
They started playing at Oconee on the JV team as eighth-graders. They both started their high school careers under former and late Warriors’ head coach Stan Fricks.
Both brothers started as freshmen under Fricks and were immediately impactful on the team. Fricks described them as hard-working kids who were devoted to their team, and the game of baseball.
Their recruitment process began their sophomore year, and they both verbally committed to the Bulldogs. This season should the expectations are high for Georgia baseball, and the Tate twins are two players to watch.
If you missed reasons No. 1 and No. 2 in our Five Reasons Why Omaha is Realistic for Georgia Baseball, just click on the links below.
No. 2: C.J. Smith’s versatility