*This post was written by Wyatt Fielden and Chris Kuehnhold*
The Georgia Bulldogs are hoping to continue what looked to be a promising start in 2020. Sitting at 14-4 and ranked in the top 10 when COVID swung the biggest bat in the history of the college game, the Dawgs were having their best start since their runner-up finish in the 2008 CWS. Much of the early season success in 2020 was directly attributed to elite level pitching in the starting rotation coupled with depth at the plate with upperclassmen providing leadership.
Georgia comes into the 2021 season with an all-new pitching staff. The loss of Emerson Hancock, the #6 overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft going to the Seattle Mariners, and Cole Wilcox, a 3rd round pick of the San Diego Padres. These two pitchers were the bread and butter of this baseball team. Now let’s talk who can step in this season for the pitching staff. The first guy that comes to my mind that can step up this season is CJ Smith. CJ had a 3.32 ERA in 2020 featuring a serviceable fastball, curveball and slider. Smith has had injury issues in the past but certainly has the ability to become the Friday night starter. . One of the new additions this season is Nolan Crisp, a Florida transfer that came to Georgia this offseason. Crisp comes from Locust Grove, Georgia and certainly has the ability make make a major impact on the Dawgs staff. Also other names to know in this pitching rotation are Junior Ryan Webb, a great left handed pitcher that should be a starter. Another big name is 6’6″ Jonathan Cannon. These two are both preseason Freshman All-Americans, so I expect they will help out big time this season.
The Georgia offense might struggle this season. It does lose some top players but has depth and some upperclassmen that will help a lot. Here are some names that you need to know for the 2021 season. On the offense Riley King, Mason Meadows and Conner Tate are big bats. King, a redshirt senior, has appeared in 89 games with 79 starts and batting .275 with nine doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 55 RBI. Another redshirt senior is Meadows. He has played in 110 games with 91 starts at catcher and batted .232 with eight doubles, one triple, six home runs and 43 RBI. He owns a .998 career fielding percentage in 868 total chances which ranks as a school record for a catcher. Connor Tate has been a part time starter in right field each of the last two seasons. Appearing in 55 games with 21 starts (12 RF, 9 DH), Tate has a career .261 batting average with 11 walks and 25 RBI in 129 at bats.
Defense has always been a strength with Scott Stricklin since he has taken over the program and his defense has been very good for the last couple seasons. With Mason Meadows anchoring the team behind the plate, I do not expect it will have a big downfall this season. With each member of the team playing up to their capabilities, this team will be competitive in the SEC East.
Expectations for the 2021 season are coupled with the losses of the big pitchers last season and some big offense players also being drafted. With all that said, Georgia is returning a lot of players with experience and their schedule is set up perfectly this season in the SEC. My prediction would be third in the SEC East and maybe fifth overall. Then, the Dawgs go to Hoover and have a chance of winning the SEC and hosting a regional and possibly even a super! Georgia is set up for a great season with recruiting and experience! The Dawgs will have a great season and get ready because I am super excited to have baseball back!! I hope everyone enjoyed this article and has a wonderful baseball season. Be safe and GO DAWGS!!!!!