The scene and setting has been a little under a year in the waiting for the Diamond Dawgs after being ousted in last year’s Athens Regional at Foley Field by Duke. Now, the moment has arrived as for the second year in a row, Georgia hosts a regional.
Once again, Georgia is at home as the top seed and plays fourth-seeded Mercer at 7 pm tonight. The regional starts at noon between Florida State and Florida Atlantic.
With a win in the Athens Regional, Georgia faces the winner of the Baton Rouge regional, where LSU is seeded first. As the No. 4 national seed, Georgia would host the Super Regional.
Don’t look for this team to look ahead. Its mode of operation all year has been the task at hand and not looking ahead, and that should be expected this weekend. In fact, as UGASports,com details, last year’s experience is something Georgia looks to use to its advantage.
Friday’s pitching matchup will be a battle of a pair of former high school teammates at Houston County - Tony Locey for Georgia and Tanner Hall for Mercer. Emerson Hancock will start Saturday’s game.
2019 NCAA Baseball Athens Regional Schedule
Friday, May 31
Game 1 - No. 2 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 3 vs. Florida State, Noon (ESPN3)
Game 2 – No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Mercer, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)
Saturday, June 1
Game 3 - Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2, 1 pm
Game 4 - Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2, 7 pm
Sunday, June 2
Game 5 - Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4, Noon
Game 6 - Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 4, 6 pm
Monday, June 3 (If Necessary)
Game 7 - If Necessary, 4 pm
The TV Network/platform for Saturday/Sunday/Monday will be decided after each day’s action is complete.
Georgia Wins The Regional If...
- It does what it’s done all year - have strong pitching, sound defense and take advantage of clutch hitting situations.
- Take advantage of the environment. Last year’s regional saw games delayed by weather, taking away Georgia’s home-field advantage. With spectacular weather on tap this weekend for a sold-out crowd at a venue where Georgia has lost three times all year, that’s an intangible in the Dawgs favor.
Don’t play tight. Could this team press too much, worrying about another regional letdown? Maybe. If this team relaxes and plays its style of baseball, odds of winning the regional are good.
Georgia Head Baseball Coach Scott Stricklin
“We’ve been in this spot before. We’ve got experience and we’ve got an older group so there’s no reason to be tight; just be loose and play the game that you’ve played all your life. That’s a playground out there, that’s what we talk about. Go out there and be a kid and have some fun. They’re very talented, they’ve been coached, they know what to do and they need to trust instincts, trust their abilities, and go out and play the game.”
Florida Atlantic Head Baseball Coach John McCormack
“We can hit, offense is our thing. We don’t steal bases. We’re going to swing the bat, try and hit doubles in the gap, we’re a good on-base team. We traditionally have been very good with strike zone discipline. We draw some walks, get some hits, then score some runs. We play pretty good defense; again, we’re not as dynamic as I’d like us to be in some of the outfield spots in terms of tracking down fly balls, but we do what we can. Pitching is solid. It’s not whip- out stuff. We’re just mixing and matching, we have a few injuries. Blake [Sanderson] has been really good for us going out first every series and his stuff is not really Friday night stuff but his demeanor and his ability to control the game is.”
Florida State Head Baseball Coach Mike Martin
On the importance of winning the opening game of a regional…
“There’s no doubt it’s a very important game any time out. You’re not out of the tournament but you’re sure behind the eight ball. We’ve just got to do the little things and battle. I know John McCormack’s team is a bunch of battlers. They’re going to come after you hard and we’ve got to match their enthusiasm.”
Mercer Head Baseball Coach Craig Gibson
On Mercer’s run in the Southern Conference Tournament…
“It was sort of a magical moment for us. We had some guys step up and some pitchers bounce back to give us some extra innings. We saw more fight and a little more determination than I’ve seen in our club with all the new guys. … It’s like riding a wave. You hope it starts as far out as it does, and you ride it as long as you can until it comes crashing down. We rode it and we won four or five in a row and that’s why we’re in Athens today.”
*quotes via UGA Sports Communications