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UGA baseball confidence at all-time high heading into regular-season finale

Coach Stricklin: ‘There’s still a scenario where we’re not in the top four’

Scott Stricklin, head coach of University of Georgia's baseball team, talks about his hopes of making it into the top four and says that the team will know more after tomorrow's game on May 15, 2019.
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Scott Stricklin, head coach of University of Georgia's baseball team, talks about his hopes of making it into the top four and says that the team will know more after tomorrow's game on May 15, 2019.

You probably recognize him when you hear his walk-up song, Jimmy Dean’s 1961 classic “Big Bad John.” Or from videos of that bat flip after his grand slam against LSU.

John Cable took a different path to Georgia than most of his Bulldog teammates. He played his first two years at Darton State College (now Albany State) in Albany before transferring to the University of New Orleans, which he graduated in 2018. Cable missed his senior year with a hamstring injury, then joined the Georgia baseball team as a graduate transfer.

“(Playing at Georgia) has been a dream come true, in a sense,” Cable said.

Back to that walk-up song.

“Big Bad John” tells the story of a man similar to American folklore figure Paul Bunyan. Sung in Dean’s hearty southern accent, it matches up perfectly with Cable’s deep accent. Then, the song’s opening verse:

“Every mornin’ at the mine you could see him arrive

He stood 6-foot-6 and weighed two-forty-five.”

Cable stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs 230 pounds. So, he may not be quite as “big bad” of a John, at least physically, as the make-believe character in the song. But his play at the plate says otherwise.

Cable took over at designated hitter at the start of 2019 with massive shoes to fill.

Michael Curry, the Bulldogs’ DH in 2018, is now playing minor league baseball. Curry hit 13 home runs and drove in 53 runs a season ago, in which the Bulldogs came within one win of an NCAA Super Regional berth.

Cable’s first hit of the season didn’t come until Georgia’s fifth game. He sits at six home runs this season, but the graduate transfer got hot once SEC play started. He watched some of last year’s Bulldogs, but said he focused mainly on his own game. So, he knew a little of what to expect in filling the void left by Curry’s departure.

“I didn’t really look at it (as replacing Curry),” Cable said. “I see it as doing the best that I can to help this team win.”

The rest of the squad has heated up, too.

Since getting swept by Mississippi State, the Bulldogs have lost just two games, swept rival Florida — a traditional college baseball power — and won a close series at Auburn, which is not a pushover.

The team’s confidence is at an all-time high, especially now that they’re getting ace pitcher Emerson Hancock back from injury. Georgia’s starting rotation this weekend against Alabama, with news via a UGA spokesperson that freshman Cole Wilcox will start Thursday night, can all throw speeds well into the upper-90s.

“Velocity doesn’t guarantee you victory,” Bulldogs coach Scott Stricklin said. “But it certainly helps.”

Hancock, upon stepping out of the dugout prior to practice Wednesday, began singing to himself (and, by nature, anyone else within earshot). Tony Locey, another one of those ace pitchers in the Bulldogs’ startlingly-good starting rotation, let out a big “wooo!” upon his entrance to practice that would make Ric Flair proud.

Given the Bulldogs’ RPI standing (Georgia sits at No. 5), a home Regional is essentially a lock. While a regular-season SEC championship might be too much to ask for — the Bulldogs need help from Kentucky, which plays Vanderbilt — a Super Regional and, potentially, a trip to Omaha and the College World Series may not be.

“A successful end to this year would be, us host a Regional, win that, host a Super, win that, then get to Omaha,” Cable said. “Then we’ll see what happens there.”

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