Bulldogs Beat

UGA baseball has eye on College World Series heading into Regionals: ‘It’s what we expect now’

Georgia’s baseball team has accomplished the goal it set at the beginning of 2019.

The Bulldogs, after hosting an NCAA Regional last season, aimed to repeat that feat this year. As the No. 4 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, they passed with flying colors. Of course, now that goal shifts a bit — the Bulldogs aim to make the College World Series — but two seasons of postseason baseball in Athens give Scott Stricklin an optimistic view of the direction his program is heading.

“When I got the job, this was our goal,” Stricklin said. “It took some time to get here, but this is what we built for, and this is what we want to expect. We want this to be the normal. ... I don’t know how many teams have been a national seed two years in a row, but we’re one of them.”

Since 2018, it has been the normal. And the program is trending in a positive direction with yet another strong season.

The Bulldogs came within one win of a Super Regional appearance a season ago. They entered the final day of last year’s Athens Regional needing one win against Duke to secure a bid to the Supers. Instead, they dropped two consecutive to the Blue Devils.

But that was just the start. Georgia went further in this season’s postseason SEC Tournament (last year it went 0-2 in the tournament) and won more than 40 games for the first time in 11 years. Last year, they were thrilled to be hosting a Regional, Stricklin said. This season, the feat was a bit more expected, so the early announcement that the Bulldogs were one of the top-four overall seeds was a nice surprise.

“Last year, we were wondering whether we were going to be a top-eight (seed),” Stricklin said. “Our guys knew we were in, it was just a matter of who we were playing.”

Georgia hosts Mercer, Florida State and Florida Atlantic for the Athens Regional. It is guaranteed to host a super regional if it advances, and is paired with the Baton Rouge regional. That could set-up a potential all-SEC rematch with LSU as the Bulldogs won two-of-three against the Tigers in March at Foley Field.

There was not much surprise in anybody’s voices on Monday. No media aside from UGA’s own cameras were allowed inside the team’s viewing room, but the announcing of Georgia as a No. 4 seed drew applause, judging by the team’s Instagram account.

That was about as wild as it got.

There were no raucous celebrations this time around. Last season, players spoke with massive excitement about the feat of hosting a Regional. This season, there was a sense of a job not finished. John Cable, before the Bulldogs’ regular-season finale, said that anything short of a College World Series appearance is a failure.

The Bulldogs have won four of five previous regionals in Athens, advancing in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2008 — the lone exception, of course, being last season.

The one way to move past that bitter end to last season, third baseman Aaron Schunk said, is to win the Regional this time around.

“It’s what we expect now, that the Bulldogs should be in the postseason every year,” Schunk said. “It’s what we expect. That’s where we want to be, and that’s where we want to keep the ‘dogs.”