UGA in the hunt to secure final spot in SEC tournament

Georgia has spent about as much time watching the rain as it has playing baseball the last two weeks.

AJ Reynolds/Staff
Georgia coach David Perno walks off the field after a 5-1 loss to Vanderbilt on April 21 at Foley Field in Athens.

The Bulldogs will try to not only win some games, but also score against Mother Nature as they make their final regular-season road trip to South Carolina.

“It was unfortunate for those games to get rained out the way they did,” Georgia outfielder Hunter Cole said. “We’re playing well right now. We went out Friday and had a good game, scored a bunch of runs and played great defense. We would have loved to have played another game on Saturday and Sunday but the weather didn’t hold up. Hopefully there’s still some time for us to get back into it. If we just keep playing the way we’ve been playing I think we’ll be fine.”

Georgia has played only one of its last four scheduled Southeastern Conference games. Georgia had Game 3 against Arkansas cancelled because of rain two weeks ago. Last week, Georgia beat Tennessee 8-7 in Game 1 but Mother Nature emerged the winner in Game 2 and Game 3 as both were washed out.

Fortunately for Georgia, the Bulldogs’ postseason prospects might have improved with the one-game series win against Tennessee, which is a half-game in front of Georgia in the standings. Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri are in a tight pack at the bottom of the SEC leaderboard with two weekends for one to emerge to claim the final spot in the conference tournament. Georgia closes the regular season with a three-game home series against Florida beginning on Thursday.

“It didn’t do anything to us, standings-wise,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “We’re half a game out from being in the conference tournament. We’ve got two weeks to make it up. You’ve got to win. You’ve got to make it up at some point. We haven’t won a series all year so we’re taking the one at Tennessee. If you had told me earlier in the year that we’d be sitting here with the record we have and we’d only be half a game out, let’s go. I’d have no problem with that.”

Georgia (17-28, 5-16 SEC) will play No. 15 South Carolina (33-14, 13-10) in a three-game series starting at 7 p.m. today at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, S.C.

Probable starters are Georgia right-hander Sean McLaughlin (4-5, 3.14 ERA) against South Carolina left-hander Nolan Belcher (6-5, 2.21). Game 2 of the series will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Game 3 at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

“We’re playing a lot better,” Georgia catcher Brett DeLoach said. “We’ve played well the last couple of weeks. Against Arkansas (lost two games) we pitched well and played good defense. We just couldn’t get any timely hits. So you have to tip your cap to them. But we feel good. We’re healthy, probably the healthiest we’ve been all year. We’ve just got to keep the momentum rolling.”

Georgia has played two games since April 27. After the Game 3 rainout against Arkansas, Georgia did not play a midweek contest because of final exams. On Wednesday, the skies cleared and Georgia beat College of Charleston 5-3 on the road before heading to South Carolina.

“It’s a little tough to not be able to play a bunch and keep our momentum going,” Cole said. “But coming out whenever we get a chance to get some work in. Hopefully we can keep it going and stay on the right track. It was kind of boring watching the rain in Knoxville. We knew after Friday that once it started raining it probably wasn’t going to stop. We were kind of bummed out. But it was nice to win that one game.”

Georgia at South Carolina

When: 7 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday, 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Where: Carolina Stadium, Columbia, S.C.

Radio: WRFC 960-AM.

Video: Sports South on Friday and Sunday, CSS on Saturday.

Records: Georgia is 18-28, 5-16 in the Southeastern Conference; South Carolina is 33-14, 13-10.

Rankings: Georgia is unranked; South Carolina is No. 15.

Probable starting pitchers

Friday: Georgia RHP Sean McLaughlin (4-5, 3.14 ERA) vs. South Carolina LHP Nolan Belcher (6-5, 2.21).

Saturday: Georgia LHP Blake Dieterich (2-2, 2.67) vs. South Carolina LHP Jordan Montgomery (3-1, 1.96).

Saturday: Georgia TBA vs. South Carolina TBA.

Players to watch

South Carolina: L.B. Dantzler leads South Carolina with a .343 average, 12 home runs and 44 RBIs. … Joey Pankake has a .309 average with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs. … Max Schrock has a .280 average, five home runs, 33 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.

Georgia: Curt Powell continues to lead the team with a .392 average and has 20 RBIs. … Hunter Cole has a .308 average with three home runs and 29 RBIs. … Left-handed reliever Jarrett Brown has a team-high 23 appearances with three saves.

Series: South Carolina leads 53-38.

Last meeting: Georgia and South Carolina split a two-game, rain-shortened series at Foley Field last season.

Season at a glance: Georgia has only played two games since April 27 because of multiple rainouts and final exams. Georgia won both those games, 8-7 at Tennessee last Friday and 5-3 at College of Charleston on Wednesday. South Carolina has lost two of its last three. The Gamecocks got swept 2-0 in a rain-shortened series against Vanderbilt last week but beat Wofford 9-3 on Wednesday.

Noteworthy: Jared Walsh has missed the last two games because of the death of his father. He is expected back in time for the weekend series against South Carolina. … Multiple rainouts has forced Georgia to shuffle its starting rotation again. McLaughlin will start on Friday with Dieterich making his first start of the season on Saturday. Walsh is tentatively scheduled to start Game 3. … Georgia had 14 hits in its come-from-behind win at College of Charleston. Hunter Cole and Brett DeLoach each had three hits. Zack Bowers and Daniel Nichols each had a home run. … This is the second straight road series for Georgia. Georgia will go to Georgia Tech on Tuesday before returning for a three-game set with Florida beginning on Thursday. … South Carolina trailed Wofford 3-2 going into the bottom of the seventh on Wednesday. Joey Pankake keyed the Gamecocks’ rally with a two-run homer as South Carolina eventually won 9-3.

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