Georgia Baseball: New Team, New Park, New Ball


People ask me what I do in winter when there is no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. – Rogers Hornsby

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Spring comes to the University of Georgia campus this Friday when the Georgia baseball team awakens from its hibernation to take the diamond for the 2015 season.

After a 26-28 2014 record, Friday won’t get here soon enough.

New Team

Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin enters his second campaign leading the Diamond Dawgs and he spoke to about having a year under his belt as the Bulldog skipper.

"We know our personnel better. I think the confidence level of our players is higher. Last year, I felt like some players were waiting for things to go wrong, and this year, I see a more confident team that believes they are going to win. We are working towards getting back to that winning mentality consistently.We are going to be more athletic and be able to make things happen offensively. We have more depth. For example at catcher, we’ve got senior Brandon Stephens and junior Zack Bowers. When one is catching, the other will be our designated hitter (DH) or be available as a pinch-hitter. It’s the same at first base/DH with senior Jared Walsh and junior Daniel Nichols.We’ve got options at the corner outfield spots too with sophomore Skyler Weber and freshman Keegan McGovern along with junior DJ Smith and freshman Mitchell Webb.  Sophomore Stephen Wrenn will anchor the group in centerfield. He showed last year that he’s one of the better defenders in our league."

Pitcher Robert Tyler is ranked first among the Top 100 College Sophomores by Perfect Game USA. Centerfielder Stephen Wrenn checked in at 33 on the list of sophomores while pitcher Jared Cheek was ranked 50 among the Top 100 seniors.

Tyler, who earned Freshman All-America honors in 2014, led the squad in wins, earned run average and strikeouts. A 6-4, 217-pound native of Cordele, Tyler’s 2.68 ERA was the lowest by a Bulldog starter in 10 seasons.

Wrenn, a 6-2, 175-pound native of Marietta, set a school record for an outfielder with a perfect fielding percentage in 171 total chances in 2014. He made 55 starts in centerfield and batted .254 with a team-high 16 stolen bases. Cheek, a 5-11, 184-pound native of Athens, anchored the bullpen with a team-high 11 decisions in 22 appearances. He went 5-6 with a 4.09 ERA and three saves.

Additionally, a pair of first-year Bulldogs made the Top 100 Freshmen rankings. Pitcher Ryan Avidano of Peachtree City and product of Starr’s Mill High School was No. 65 on the list while outfielder Keegan McGovern of Willacoochee and graduate of Coffee High School was No. 81.

New Ball

Not only is the team new, the baseball is new this year. Coach Strickland talked about the impact of the new flat seam baseball with

"The ball jumps off the bat and carries more so you should see an increase in home runs. A high fly ball to the track last year will be a home run this year. I think more offense, more home runs is a positive for the game. I didn’t hear any complaints from the pitchers in the fall, and the hitters seemed to like it.In theory, the exit velocity hasn’t changed. With the flat seams, the drag on the baseball is not as great so the ball is not getting knocked down as it flies through the air."

The Georgia pre-conference home schedule brings Florida State to renovated Foley Field and mid-week opponents in Athens include Clemson and Georgia Tech. The powerful SEC will send national powers Vanderbilt, LSU, Florida and Arkansas to Athens on weekends.

New Park

Opening Day is Friday February 13 at 5:00 PM.  The Bulldogs christen renovated Foley Field with a three game series against Eastern Illinois. The renovations include an exterior facelift reflective of the Stegeman Coliseum a block away, field level club seating, enlarged and redesigned concourses and concessions areas, and enlarged and upgraded team club house, locker room and training areas.

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