The Georgia Bulldogs will have less than a 48-hour turnaround to face the No. 13 Ole Miss Rebels for the final SEC series of the season following a 14 inning loss at Georgia Tech. While it would be easy for the Bulldogs to roll over after a game that lasted over five hours, Georgia knows this upcoming series could determine its postseason fate.
Georgia is truly a team on the “bubble” of the NCAA Tournament with a record of 29-21 (12-14). D1baseball.com places Georgia in the “last five in” of its projected field of 64, although that was released before the loss to Georgia Tech. With a series win against the Rebels, Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin made it clear he thought his team would be in good shape to make the tournament.
“Both teams have a lot to play for,” said Stricklin. “For us, we win this series we feel like we’re in… we’ve got it in our hands to do it at home. I think for sure it should have a postseason feel, especially with the crowd now.”
Georgia announced last week that Foley Field would increase its capacity to 100% for the Ole Miss series. The Bulldogs have one of the smaller venues in the SEC in terms of capacity, but with the stakes as high as they are this weekend, expect Georgia fans to make plenty of noise this weekend.
“Two years ago when we had the full capacity, looking at our record, we won a lot of games at home,” said senior outfielder Riley King. “A lot of that had to do with the fans in the stands, the crowd, so that is definitely going to give us a bump and we’re looking forward to it.”
The crowd will need to be an advantage for Georgia because the pitching depth will most likely not be. Georgia used seven pitchers in the loss against Georgia Tech on Tuesday, making a Thursday-through-Saturday series that much harder for the Bulldogs. Tuesday marked the second time that Georgia has played in a 14-inning game this season.
The first time was against Auburn on April 30, which resulted in a 10-6 “gut-punch” loss as described by Stricklin. The Bulldogs then turned around and played Auburn the next day, losing 9-7. However, Stricklin was not adamant about college baseball moving towards adopting new rules to speed games up as seen in professional baseball with runners being put on second base in extra innings.
“That atmosphere last night was really cool to play in,” said Stricklin. “I’m a traditionalist, I like baseball the way it is. I’m not in favor of just putting everything in the microwave and going as fast as we can. Baseball is a game that really doesn’t need to be changed much… sometimes good things can go slow too.”
Teams actually are allowed to implement the rule in non-conference play if agreed upon by both coaches. Stricklin said that has never been brought up in any of Georgia’s games this year.
The Bulldogs will most likely have to face Ole Miss ace Doug Nikhazy in Thursday’s game which starts at 7:02 p.m. Nikhazy owns a 7-2 record with a 2.34 ERA. Georgia will start Luke Wagner in the opening game with Michael Polk in line to relieve him. Liam Sullivan is expected to start Friday, with the starting spot on Saturday still up for grabs.