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 five is the return of redshirt junior Tucker Bradley.
Last year, Georgia outfielder Tucker Bradley suffered a season-ending injury attempting to make a diving catch against Dayton, which was the third game of the season.
That injury left Bradley on the bench the battling a shoulder problem for the remainder of the year.
“I never took it for granted, but you always look back for perspective and say this game can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye,” Bradley said. “You’ve got to respect it. That’s why it’s just amazing to come out here and compete every day.”
That injury was a major loss for the Bulldogs last season, but Bradley is set to return to action on Friday vs Richmond in the season opener.
In his career at UGA, Bradley is a .303 hitter and will be batting in the No. 3 spot according to Bulldogs’ head coach Scott Stricklin. Before, Bradley held the No. 2 spot in the lineup, but this year will be a little different.
“He’s probably more suited for the two-hole, but we’re going to hit him in the three-hole. He’s probably going to hit 8-10 homers and steal some bases,” Stricklin said. “But just because he’s hitting third, it’s not going to change the way he plays.”
As a sophomore, Bradley batted .299 with three doubles, three home runs, and 26 RBI as the team went 39-21 and advanced to the NCAA Athens Regional Final. In that Athens Regional, he hit .333 (6-for-18) with his first career grand slam and eight RBIs. He also led the team with 12 stolen bases that year. He played in 54 games with 53 starts (47-RF, 5-CF, 1-LF).
His freshman year he appeared in 44 games with 41 starts (31-RF, 6-LF, 4-CF). Bradley led the team with a .314 batting average overall and .349 in SEC action, also tallying eight doubles, 10 RBIs and team-high seven stolen bases. He also saw action on the mound with seven relief appearances in February and March, going 0-0, 3.52 ERA and one save in 7.2 innings with eight walks and 11 strikeouts
This year the Bulldogs’ will be without Aaron Schunk, who did double-duty for the team switching between the infield and being the closer. Bradley isn’t expected to be the closer, but Stricklin said he will be a vital piece of the bullpen.
“You’re going to see him on the mound. He’s going to pitch this weekend,” Stricklin said. “He’s 90-91 mph from the left side, throws a ton of strikes, and is competitive. So he’s going to help us a ton on the mound as well.”
Bradley appears to be eager for the opportunity.
“You love competing on the mound, because it’s you and the hitter. You don’t have to worry about anything else, you have total control, really,” he said. “You’ve just got to make your pitches. You do have to play with a different mindset when you step on the mound. When I step in the box, I try to be more relaxed, be as loose as I can be up there. But I want to be a Bulldog, I want to grind it out and compete up there.”
With Bradley’s fierce bat-power and his sharp fastball, the Bulldogs will be a team to watch this year.
If you missed parts I-IV in our Five Reasons Why Omaha is Realistic for Georgia Baseball, just click on the links below.
Part II: C.J. Smith’s Versatility
Part III: The Tate Twins’ Time to Shine
Part IV: The Reliability of Mason Meadows