If Georgia wants to earn a spot in the 64-team field for the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs are going to have to earn it with a solid showing in the double-elimination SEC Tournament which gets underway Tuesday at Region Park in Hoover, Ala.
Georgia (31-24) could have sewn up a spot by winning two of three games last weekend at Alabama, but after dropping two to the last-place team in the SEC, the challenge now is officially tougher.
Nobody knows that better than skipper David Perno, who will send staff ace Alex Wood to the mound against fifth-seed Vanderbilt (29-25). The Commodores and Bulldogs play the late game Tuesday, which will get underway 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Florida-Auburn contest slated to begin at 5:30.
"We knew last week that we could be anywhere from a No. 5 to a No. 10 seed because we're all bunched together as far as our SEC records," Perno said during a Monday conference call with reporters. "We've played well of late; we've just been a little short in the run category. We're throwing strikes and taking care of the baseball. We feel good with Alex going Tuesday, and he's been as good as anybody we've played."
Wood is a team-best 7-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 14 starts for Georgia this year Michael Palazzone will start for Georgia in the Bulldogs' second game on Wednesday.
"We knew a few weeks ago that this would be an important tournament again for us, just like last year," Perno added. "We scaled back their workload in between outings for a few weeks now, knowing they would go the first two here and both should be good to go."
Last year, Georgia earned a spot in the Corvallis, Ore. Regional by going 3-2 in the SEC Tourney.
The Commodores took two of three games in their series against the Bulldogs earlier this year in Nashville.
Wood started the game and went 4.1 innings when the game was stopped due to a rain delay.
"No matter who we play we feel good when Alex is on the mound," Perno said. "We feel he's as good as anybody in the league; we just have to go out and play a good game because at this time of year they're all good and all are very capable teams. Unfortunately, Vanderbilt is probably playing better than anybody right now, but that's part of it."
NOTES: Georgia is one of the top defensive teams in the SEC, fielding .978 overall and .981 in SEC games this year.
The Bulldogs are 9-7 in one-run games including 2-1 in extra-innings.
Junior SS Kyle Farmer (.304-4-41), junior 3B b>Curt Powell (.354-2-20) and freshman OF Hunter Cole (.281-7-23) have had 14-game hitting streaks this season. Powell hit a team-best .345-2-10 in SEC action. Powell along with seniors Levi Hyams and Colby May hit .462 (6-for-13) in the recently completed Alabama series. Hyams has the team's longest current hitting streak at six games while Powell has hit safely in five straight. Hyams and Peter Verdin rank in the top ten in school history for games played. Hyams has appeared in 222 games while Verdin has played in 217. They are two of the top defensive players in school history as Hyams set the mark for highest fielding percentage by a shortstop in 2009 (.962) and then as a second baseman in 2011 (.983). Verdin has made his share of highlight catches in his career, and he's fielding .992 this year in 123 total chances with five assists. Hyams is fielding .981 in 267 total chances.