Along with reliable defense, Conor Welton carries a career-best nine-game hitting streak to the SEC Tournament.
May 19, 2014
ATHENS-----On Tuesday at the Hoover Met in Hoover, Ala., Georgia will face fifth seed and 20th-ranked Miss. State (35-20, 18-12 SEC) in the first round of the SEC Tournament on CSS-TV in Hoover, Ala. The game will follow the Alabama-UK contest that is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m ET. The tournament format on Tuesday is single elimination. The winner of the Georgia/MSU game faces USC (42-14) Wednesday night when the tournament format switches to double elimination until Saturday.
Georgia (26-28-1, 11-18-1 SEC), under the direction of first-year coach Scott Stricklin, earned the final spot in the 12-team SEC Tournament field after defeating Kentucky 11-10 Saturday in Athens. Georgia snapped a scoreless streak of 36 innings that day with three runs in the first en route to a win.
"This was a big step for our program in getting back to the SEC Tournament after not being there last year," said Stricklin. "It's a grind in the SEC as you're facing a nationally-ranked opponent almost every weekend. We're taking the approach that we've got to get to the double-elimination part of the tournament and first we've got a very good Mississippi State team to play. We're in a tough position, and it's a tall order, but we're excited about having an opportunity to keep playing in the postseason."
Georgia will be making its 21st all-time appearance at the SEC Tournament where it is 28-40. Georgia is 4-7 against MSU at the SEC Tournament. Georgia last played in the SEC Tournament in 2012 when it went 0-2. Georgia’s best finish at the SEC Tournament is 2nd (1985, 1986 and 1989).
Georgia opened the 2014 SEC season by playing host to then 24th-ranked MSU, and the Bulldogs of MSU claimed the series 2-1. Georgia captured the opener 7-1 on March 14 at Foley Field, and then due to weather, the teams played a doubleheader the next day and MSU swept it, posting 6-1 and 4-1 decisions.
"The opening game of the SEC season we played Mississippi State, and won 7-1 and played about as good as we can play," Stricklin recalled. "They won the series, and overall we've been up and down this season so we've struggled with our consistency. MSU has a lot of depth, a lot of options in their lineup, and I think we saw everybody they have during our series. Their lineup is good as is their pitching. We'll be prepared."
Recently, Georgia finished a 19-game stretch where it played 17 games against ranked opponents. They have played a league-high 29 games against ranked teams. The Bulldogs went 4-5 over the final three SEC weekends, battling #7 South Carolina, SEC Western Division champion #11 Ole Miss in Oxford and finishing the regular season with Kentucky.
Georgia Versus The 2014 SEC Tournament Field
As the 12th seed, the Bulldogs are in Bracket Two with SEC regular season champion Florida, South Carolina, Miss. State, Alabama and Kentucky. Georgia went a combined 4-8 against these teams during the regular season. The Bulldogs did not face Alabama. Georgia was swept in Gainesville and lost home series to Kentucky and Miss. State. The Bulldogs did post a series win over USC at Foley Field.
Bracket One features SEC Western Division champion Ole Miss, LSU, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Tennessee. Georgia posted a 5-11-1 mark against these clubs this season. They did not face Arkansas. Georgia went 1-2 in Oxford, 0-2-1 in Baton Rouge and won series 2-1 over Texas A&M and Tennessee in Athens.
Bulldogs To Watch
Georgia will start senior RHP Dylan Cole (1-0, 4.72 ERA) versus MSU. It will be his third career start, all coming this year. In his last start, he tossed four scoreless innings in front of 21,310 at Turner Field in Atlanta versus Ga. Tech on May 13. In the MSU series this year, he pitched 1.1 scoreless innings. MSU will start junior LHP Lucas Laster (0-0, 1.52 ERA).
Junior 3B Hunter Cole (.327-3-30) and junior SS Nelson Ward (.302-2-34) have led the Georgia offense this season. Cole hit .333 (4-12, HR, 4 RBI) in the UK series last weekend. The top hitter in the UK series was freshman 2B Mike Bell (.255-1-8) as he batted .556 (5-9, 3R, 2BB).
Junior LF Conor Welton (.284-1-17) enters the SEC Tournament on a career-best nine-game hitting streak. Ward and Welton are the only two Bulldogs to have started all 55 games this year.
Freshman CF Stephen Wrenn (.254-0-20) has a team-best 16 stolen bases. His speed has been asset on defense too, registering a perfect fielding percentage in 169 total chances including five assists.
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