Due to the continuing developments related to the coronavirus (COVID-19), everyone's world has changed. We're all dealing with this pandemic together. Stay Safe, Stay Healthy and Practice Social Distancing have become as common for Bulldogs as "Go Dawgs." It's necessary, but still we can take time to reflect on the baseball that the Bulldogs were able to play in 2020.
The first hint that the college baseball season was in jeopardy came March 12. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) announced regular season competition would be suspended until March 30. Shortly thereafter, it was extended to April 15 before ultimately all the remaining games were canceled. The Bulldogs and Florida had been set for a No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup in Gainesville to open the SEC schedule. Today, University of Georgia students, like most college students around the country, are completing spring semester classwork online.
The gut-punch for the Bulldogs essentially was delivered on March 12 while riding on a bus back to Athens when the NCAA cancelled all spring sport championships due to COVID-19. There would be no College World Series (CWS). With an hour still left on the trip, the bus became eerily quiet the rest of the way home.
The 2020 Bulldogs finish with a 14-4 record, and the final USA TODAY Sports Top 25 poll of the season placed Georgia in the No. 2 spot. Georgia ends a season at No. 2 for the first time since the 2008 squad was a consensus No. 2 after advancing to the CWS Finals. There's only been one Bulldog squad to do better, the 1990 national champions.
The 2020 Bulldogs featured one of the deepest pitching staffs in the country, and coupled with a veteran lineup, Georgia was poised to have a special campaign. It would comprise just 18 games. Even with an abbreviated season, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate the 2020 squad under the direction of Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin.
*During the fall,Georgia teamed up with Vs. Cancer in a fundraising campaign to support child life programs at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and for Pediatric Brain Cancer research. Then, their "Star" Nicholas Chaclan and his family were recognized before the Santa Clara doubleheader on Feb. 22, and the Bulldogs presented a $10,000 check to the Vs. Cancer organization. Also, the team wore gold shoelaces in their cleats as it's the signature color for childhood cancer to bring awareness to the disease.
*In early February, Emerson Hancock, Riley King and Cam Shepherd were named the team captains. Over the summer, King and Shepherd each made a decision to return to Georgia after getting drafted in 2019. Together with Hancock and the rest of the Bulldogs, they looked forward to "unfinished business."
*For the first time in school history,Georgia sold out its season tickets as the fans sensed a special season.
*Emerson Hancock (RHP), a consensus preseason All-America pick, along with Riley King (2B) were 2020 SEC Coaches Preseason All-SEC selections. Cole Wilcox (RHP) was named to the Baseball America preseason All-America Third Team. Hancock and Wilcox were among the players on the watch list for USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award.
*Georgia posted a 7-6 walk-off of Richmond on Opening Day as Cole Tate tallied four hits including the game-winner. Tate's first hit that afternoon was his first career home run. Ryan Webb pitched five innings of relief with 11 strikeouts, both career highs, for the victory. *
On Feb. 15, Ben Anderson, Cam Shepherd and Tucker Bradley, combined to 9-for-12 with six RBI, five stolen bases and seven runs scored in a 9-3 win over Richmond.
*Before the Richmond game on Feb. 16, Georgia held a moment of silence to honor the memory of team chaplain Ray Lawrence who passed away. "Mr. Ray" was a fixture at Bulldog baseball practices and games for nearly 30 years as a member of Team United and President of Georgia Athletes Outreach.
*On Feb. 21, Emerson Hancock pitched seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts in a 9-0 win over Santa Clara. He allowed hits to the first two batters of the game and that was it for the Broncos the rest of the way.
*Tucker Bradley delivered a 12th-inning walk-off home run to beat Santa Clara on Feb. 22 in game one of a doubleheader. He ended the day on the mound with a career-high four strikeouts in two innings of relief to secure the sweep.
*From Feb. 28-March 1, Georgia swept No. 17 Ga. Tech, winning 6-5 in Athens, 12-0 in Atlanta and 9-3 at Coolray Field, the Triple-A home of the Gwinnett Stripers in the Atlanta Braves organization. Proceeds of the final game went to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) as this was the 18th annual Farmview Market Spring Baseball Classic For Kids. All three games in 2020 were sellouts. This was the first three-game consecutive weekend series during the regular season with Tech in 59 years.
*Georgia's 11-1 start was the best by the Bulldogs since 2009 when they began the year 14-0.
*On March 2, Tucker Bradley and Cole Wilcox were named SEC Player and Co-Pitcher of the Week. They were instrumental in Georgia sweeping No. 17 Georgia Tech for the third time in the past four years. Bradley batted .412 (7-for-17) with eight runs scored, three home runs and nine RBI. Wilcox was brilliant in clinching the series over Tech in Atlanta, firing seven shutout innings and had a career-high 11 strikeouts. He allowed just three hits with no walks. Wilcox, along with senior Justin Glover who took care of the final two frames, led Georgia to its first shutout on Tech's campus since 1964.
*On March 3 against Ga. Southern in the ninth inning, pitcher Logan Moody ran out to centerfield from the bullpen as a defensive replacement. He replaced Randon Jernigan who had made a tremendous diving catch in the gap in left center but was a little woozy after hitting his head on the ground on the play.
*Georgia exploded for a 10-run inning in the second frame of a 16-2 win over UMASS on March 7. Eight of the 10 runs scored with two outs, and it all started with a bases empty, hit by pitch on Shane Marshall on a 0-2 count!
*Georgia's final win was its second shutout of the year, blanking UMASS 6-0 on March 8. Logan Moody got the start and combined with Justin Glover, Will Childers and Tucker Bradley for the victory.
*Junior RHP Emerson Hancock (2-0, 3.75 ERA) matched his career high with 12 strikeouts and no walks in just 7.1 innings of a combined shutout of UMASS in what turned out to be his final start in 2020. He did not factor in the decision, as the Bulldogs could not push a run across until scoring five runs in the eighth against the Minutemen. For the year, Hancock made four starts and registered a team-high 34 strikeouts in 24 innings.
*Sophomore RHP Cole Wilcox (3-0, 1.57 ERA) was dominating in 2020 with 32 strikeouts and just two walks in 23 innings over a span of four starts. Opponents hit just .209 against him. In his final start, he tossed just five innings in a blowout of UMASS after Georgia erupted for 10 runs in the second inning on its way to a 16-2 victory. Wilcox's 1.57 ERA ranks third in school history for a season and is the best since 1966 (Tom Jordan, 1.57).
*Junior OF/LHP Tucker Bradley (.397-6-23; 0-0, 0.00, 1 SV, 4.1 IP, 6K) enjoyed one of the finest starts of any player in the country. He ranked among the SEC leaders in multiple categories. He reached base safely in all 18 games. Also, he made three relief appearances for a total of 4.1 innings. He picked up one save with six strikeouts and one walk. Senior SS Cam Shepherd tallied 21 RBI, four home runs and was 7-for-7 in stolen bases, all which ranked second on the squad to Bradley.
*Sophomore CF Ben Anderson led the team with a .414 batting average, 24 runs scored and ended the season on a 17-game on base streak. Anderson is the first Bulldog since Gordon Beckham (.411) in 2008 to finish a season with a batting average over .400, and it's the highest mark since Buck Belue's .447 average in 1982. Junior INF Cole Tate(.339-2-14) enjoyed a stellar start this past year too. He had a stretch the week before the season was cancelled where he batted .615 (8-for-13) with a pair of doubles, a home run and eight RBI.
*Junior Ryan Webb was on the preseason watch list for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year, which goes to the nation's top relief pitcher. Webb (2-0, 1.38 ERA, 1 SV) posted 23 strikeouts and only three walks in 13 innings pitched in 2020.
*Freshman Jonathan Cannon(3-0, 0.00 ERA) picked up three wins in five relief appearances. He did not allow a run in 11.1 innings with 12 strikeouts and two walks. Cannon's final victory came at Coolray Field on March 1st, tossing 4.2 scoreless innings with five strikeouts to complete a sweep of No. 17 Ga. Tech. Freshman Will Childers enjoyed a nice start to his career, going 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA in five appearances covering 11.1 innings with 13 strikeouts.
Did You Know?
*Georgia could have two first round draft picks in the same year for the first time since 1987. Pitchers Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox are projected to go in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft by multiple outlets. In 1987, pitchers Derek Lilliquist (6th overall, Atlanta) and Cris Carpenter (14th overall, St. Louis) went in the first round. Georgia has had 10 first-round selections in school history with outfielder Jeff Pyburn (5th overall, San Diego) the highest ever pick. Currently, the 2020 amateur draft is scheduled to begin June 10.