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Athens Regional Breakdown: 1 seed UGA

After a few years of struggles, Georgia baseball is back to being a dominant program. For the second year in a row, the Bulldogs are top 8 national seed, this year checking in at #4 in the country. Last year, Georgia was the #8 overall seed but fell in the Athens regional final to Duke. The Bulldogs will be out to defend home territory and prove they deserve the national seed this weekend. This will be the 4th time that the Bulldogs have hosted a regional and the 14th NCAA tournament in program history. UGA will have the home field advantage this weekend and have gone 28-3 at home this season. HC Scott Striklin has built the program behind a couple of extremely strong recruiting classes. In 6 seasons at UGA, Striklin has built a record of 187-155-1 and taken the team to 2 regionals.

This season, UGA has built a 44-15 record behind pitching and defense. The Bulldogs arguably have the best pitching staff in the nation, and the numbers show it, as Georgia sits 5th in the country with a team ERA of 3.10. The Bulldogs have also compiled 5 shutouts on the season, which is also 5th best in the country. Georgia is a team that won’t beat themselves, as their fielding percentage of .981 is 13th best in the country. Georgia’s offense isn’t bad, but it’s the weakest part of the team. UGA comes into the region ranked 92nd in the country and 3rd in the region with 6.3 runs/game. Georgia won’t beat themselves, they won’t make errors or give many free passes, for another team to come out of the Athens Regional, they’ll have to get to the dominant UGA pitching staff.


History:

– Mercer last played UGA in 2017, as they won a midweek game 4-3 in extra innings.

– FSU and UGA last squared off in 2015, but the two teams have lots of history. FSU has taken 39 of the 66 matchups over the years.


Top 3 hitters:

INF Aaron Schunk- .336 AVG/.370 OBP/.565 SLG/11 HR’s

Aaron Schunk came into Georgia as one of the most highly touted prospects in the country, and he has not disappointed in 3 years. Each year Schunk has hit at least .299, but this year he has really come into his own. The UGA 3-hole hitter leads the team in most offensive categories (and some pitching categories which you’ll read about later), but the junior may have one hole in his game. The 3B has only walked 13 times on the season, good for least of any starter on the team. I would expect teams to not give Schunk anything to hit this weekend, and not let him hurt them within the zone. Look for a game plan of off-speed out of the zone against Schunk this weekend.

INF LJ Talley- .327 AVG/.438 OBP/484 SLG/8 HR’s

LJ Talley has displayed an all-around game this season, showing he can hit for power, while also drawing lots of walks. The senior leads the team in walks, with 40, and his OBP leads the team. The 6’2, 203 lefty has really broke out this year, as he had only hit .254 with 9 homers in his first 3 seasons at UGA. Talley is also one of the best fielders in the country, only making 3 errors in 231 chances at 2nd base this season. The senior epitomizes what UGA has done this season, not beating themselves, making the routine plays in the field and taking a free pass when the opponent gives it to him.

DH John Cable- .314 AVG/.415 OBP/.527 SLG/7 HR’s

John Cable is at his 3rd college in 5 years, but everywhere he’s gone he’s hit. Cable started his college career with 2 seasons at JUCO Darton State before transferring to the University of New Orleans. After missing the 2018 season with an injury, Cable graduated and transferred to UGA, which has paid off for both sides. The Bulldog DH didn’t start to begin the season, but once he got the opportunity, he ran with it. The 6’2, 230 lefty is a presence in the batter’s box and just mashes balls. 22 of his 53 hits this season have been XBH’s.


Pitching Staff:

RHP Emerson Hancock- 1.56 ERA/86.1 IP/94 K’s/8-2 Record

There really aren’t enough things I can say about Hancock to describe how good he is. The 6’4, 215 RHP is one of about 3 players that could be taken number 1 in the 2020 MLB draft and he has just run through college baseball this year. Hancock is one of the 3 finalists for College Baseball’s premier award, the Golden Spikes. The sophomore uses a mid-upper 90’s fastball, a wipeout slider, and a disgusting changeup to befuddle batters. Hancock averaged nearly 7 innings per outing, had an insane WHIP of .78, and a K-BB ratio of 5.22-1. Hancock’s ERA is good for 7th best in the country, but the best pitcher in the country, will reside in Athens this weekend, and FSU may just get him in G2 of the regional. Either way, if you like baseball, you’ll want to watch this kid pitch this weekend.

RHP Tony Locey- 2.68 ERA/84 IP/90 K’s/10-2 Record

Locey really struggled for his first two seasons at UGA, but the junior finally put it together this season. Coming out of high school, Locey was rated the 50th best prospect in the entire country but really struggled his freshman year. This year, Locey has been one of the very best pitchers in the country. Locey leads the team in wins and rarely gives up hard contact to the opponent, with an opponent batting average of .167 this year. Locey still struggles with his command though, as he has walked 44 batters in 84 innings. This is a matchup that could favor FSU, because of their plate discipline and approach. UGA is yet to make a decision on how they’ll use their pitchers this weekend, so it will all depend on how the regional goes on.

RHP Tim Elliot- 2.70 ERA/66.2 IP/64 K’s/6-3 Record

Elliot didn’t see many innings over his first two seasons with the Bulldogs, but he broke out this year as one of their best starters. Elliot doesn’t have quite the stuff as the others on this staff, but he doesn’t beat himself. On the season, Elliot owns a WHIP of .99 and a batting average against of .176. in 66.2 innings, the 6’1, 206 RHP has only allowed 40 hits. Elliot will sit in the low 90’s with his fastball and let the hitter put the ball in play. Elliot will likely be a G3 or possible G4 starter for the Bulldogs.

RHP Cole Wilcox- 3.70 ERA/56 IP/63 K’s/3-1 Record

Wilcox has some of, if not the best stuff in the country. The freshman came into the season as the number 5 recruit and he hasn’t disappointed after a slow start. Wilcox has really started to throw the ball well and get multiple starts on the mound. The 6’5, 232 RHP will run his fastball into the upper 90’s consistently which he pairs with a biting slider. Wilcox struggles with his command, but if he gets it under control, he can be one of the best in the country. Wilcox could be a number 1 pick in the 2021 draft, that’s just how special this pitching staff is.

RHP Aaron Schunk- 2.49 ERA/21.2 IP/18 K’s/12 Saves

Just like FSU, UGA’s closer is a 2-way player. Schunk, as you already read, is the Bulldogs’ best position player, but also their best reliever. Schunk has been dominant coming into games late so far this season. Whenever UGA has a close lead late in a game, they call on Schunk. On the hill, Schunk can run his fastball into the mid 90’s, but usually sits in the low 90’s.


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