2020 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 7 Georgia
Last season: 46-17 (21-9 in SEC); reached regional final.
Final ranking: No. 16.
Coach (record at school): Scott Stricklin (189-157-1, six years).
The good news: It all starts on the mound for the Bulldogs. Hancock may be the best pitcher in the country and is a contender to be the No. 1 overall pick in June, which has never been done in program history. Wilcox, who spent the summer with Team USA, gives him an elite running mate and the Bulldogs 1-2 punch figures to be among the best in the nation. Lefthander C.J. Smith is back to full health after back soreness sidelined him in the second half of last year and rounds out the rotation well. Georgia also has a potentially elite defense that got a significant boost when both second baseman Riley King and shortstop Cam Shepherd decided to return to Athens despite being drafted last June. Georgia added some exciting young talent both on the mound and in the lineup that it shouldn’t need to rely on but could make an impact before long.
The bad news: While Georgia is going to hang its hat on run prevention and is equipped to win a lot of pitchers’ duels, it still needs to answer some questions offensively. The Bulldogs’ top three hitters all must be replaced, as do their three biggest power threats. The biggest single loss that must be accounted for is All-American third baseman/closer Aaron Schunk, who led the team in hitting and home runs and saved 12 games. Georgia’s pitching staff is deep enough to account for Schunk's loss and lefthander Ryan Webb has the stuff and experience to step in at the back of the bullpen. Garrett Blaylock, a junior college transfer, is expected to start at third base and provide good defense and a powerful bat. The Bulldogs also will get back outfielder Tucker Bradley, who suffered a shoulder injury on Opening Weekend that kept him out the rest of the spring. Overall, Georgia’s experienced, veteran lineup looks like it should have several tough outs, even if its lacking star power
Player to know: Cole Wilcox, RHP.
Hancock is the headliner, and with good reason. But Wilcox, a draft-eligible sophomore, is a significant part of the reason Georgia is among the College World Series contenders. After starting last season in the bullpen, he worked his way into the rotation and put together a solid year overall. He attacks hitters with a fastball that gets into the upper 90s and a sharp slider and, if he lives up to his potential, will give the Bulldogs a devastating 1-2 punch on weekends.
Path to Omaha: Georgia has been a top-eight overall seed in each of the last two years but has been upset in the Athens Regional both years. To break through to the next level and make it back to the College World Series for the first time since 2008, it’ll be up to its pitching staff and defense to shoulder the load. Georgia has the potential to be one of the best teams in the country at run prevention and it’ll likely need to live up to that billing both on the mound and defensively. If it can just score enough runs, the combination of Hancock and Wilcox, plus a strong bullpen will make the Bulldogs a tough out.
Cole Wilcox Benefits From MLB Crash Course
Drafted this year, Cole Wilcox spent his 21st birthday in San Diego, learning from Padres big leaguers such as Garrett Richards and Kirby Yates.
|C||Mason Meadows, R-Jr. .180||.322||.295||122||3||15|
|1B||Patrick Sullivan, R-Sr.||.263||.350||.360||175||3||24|
|2B||Riley King, R-Jr.||.295||.403||.440||241||8||43|
|3B||Garrett Blaylock, Jr.||Transfer – St. Johns River (Fla.) JC|
|SS||Cam Shepherd, Sr.||.231||.333||.386||251||8||33|
|LF||Tucker Bradley, R-Jr.||.222||.300||.444||9||0||3|
|CF||Randon Jernigan, So.||.248||.338||.301||113||1||12|
|RF||Connor Tate, R-So.||.270||.304||.459||74||3||19|
|DH||Chaney Rogers, Jr.||.256||.379||.338||133||1||13|
|RHP||Emerson Hancock, Jr.||8||3||1.99||90||97||0|
|RHP||Cole Wilcox, So.||3||2||4.07||60||64||0|
|LHP||C.J. Smith, Jr.||3||3||4.30||46||38||0|
|RP||Jonathan Cannon, Fr.||HS – Alpharetta, Ga.|
|RP||Ryan Webb, Jr.||1||0||3.75||24||27||1|