Another pitching-injury adjustment for Bulldogs in SEC tourney

Georgia pitcher Luke Wagner came back from a separated shoulder to pitch against Missouri last week. He will start the Bulldogs' SEC opening game against Alabama on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia pitcher Luke Wagner came back from a separated shoulder to pitch against Missouri last week. He will start the Bulldogs' SEC opening game against Alabama on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

ATHENS — Zach Adams is the least popular man within the Georgia baseball program. When players and coaches see the team’s athletic trainer coming, they’re ducking for cover.

“When he walks in the room, we all get quiet and look at him sideways,” coach Scott Stricklin joked on Monday. “We’re hoping he doesn’t say anything to us.”

ExploreDrama on the diamond for Georgia baseball, softball

Unfortunately, Adams had more bad news to deliver to the Bulldogs this week. Nolan Crisp, Georgia’s Friday night starter, is out for the season with a torn muscle in his back. The junior right-hander from Locust Grove suffered a slight tear of the latissimus dorsi muscle in the second inning of his start against Missouri last Thursday.

Add Crisp to a list of lost-to-injury pitchers that includes Dylan Ross and Will Childers and saw Nos. 1 and 2 starters Jonathan Cannon and Liam Sullivan, respectively, sidelined for several weeks this season.

Injuries haven’t been limited to pitchers. Garrett Blaylock suffered facial fractures after getting hit with a pitch, and star shortstop Cole Tate missed several weeks with a stress-fractured leg before returning to the field recently.

All those maladies contributed to the 25th-ranked Bulldogs (35-20, 15-15 SEC) being where they are now, seeded sixth for an SEC Tournament matchup against 11th-seeded Alabama (29-25, 12-17 SEC). First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 10:32 a.m. (SECN).

ExploreArch Manning to make official visit to Georgia next month

Despite Adams’ string of bad news, the Bulldogs have managed to reach the conference tournament with a lot still to play for. An NCAA Tournament bid, if not secured, now appears likely. Georgia was able to get back to the coveted .500 mark in SEC play after fighting back for an 11-10, come-from-behind victory and avoid a sweep at the hands of Missouri on Saturday.

“We’re winning 7-3 and then it’s 10-7 and, oh, no, the wheels fall off in the seventh inning,” Stricklin said. “But our kids came back, and they have done that so many times this year. That’s what you get from a veteran team. … So, the players deserve the credit for being able to overcome the injuries that we’ve had to be able to sustain.”

“We feel good where we are right now. We just have to navigate through this tournament and stay healthy."

- Bulldogs coach Scott Stricklin

However, with Crisp out, the Bulldogs are having to adjust their rotation yet again. Georgia is going to turn to sophomore Luke Wagner to start against the Tide.

Wagner, a left-hander, also is coming off a recent stint on the injured list. He suffered a separation of his non-throwing shoulder three weeks ago. He wasn’t supposed to return until this week but was pressed into service against Missouri on Friday. He allowed a run but struck out three in two innings. A two-way player for the Bulldogs, Wagner enters the game with a 5-1 record and 5.11 ERA.

“We’re encouraged by what we saw on Friday night,” Stricklin said. “He feels really good considering he was on the ground with a separated shoulder three weeks ago.”

That’s a bit of a dice roll for the Bulldogs. The first round of the SEC Tournament is single elimination. Alabama, though in a decidedly more desperate situation, is bringing back ace right-hander Garrett McMillan (4-5, 3.83) on two days’ rest.

But if Georgia can get by Bama, it should be set up well with Cannon and Sullivan getting the ball for the next two games of the tournament, which switches to a double-elimination format after the first day.

The Bulldogs took two of three games against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa earlier this season. Meanwhile, they don’t feel like all their postseason hopes ride as much this year on their performance in the conference tournament. They enter with an RPI of 11 and No. 2 in strength of schedule.

“We feel good where we are right now,” Stricklin said. “We just have to navigate through this tournament and stay healthy.”

That has proven a challenge all season.