The Georgia Southern baseball team opens their season next week with the hope of getting back to the conference championship.
Coming off a 35-24 season, the conference championship game loss to Coastal Carolina last summer is still fresh in the team's mind.
Head Coach Rodney Hennon, who has held the position for 21 seasons, feels that this team can continue the success it had from last season, especially with the number of players returning this season.
“Yeah, I mean I think this is a team that’s capable of winning a championship, and getting to the NCAA regional,” Hennon said. “There’s a good nucleus back from last year’s team and we have a good core of guys that have been in the program for several years now that have continued to develop.”
The Eagles will be fairly young as they have five seniors and 17 total sophomores and freshman.
Hennon believes that the older players will be able to help the younger players transition from high school baseball to the collegiate level, which can be tough for some.
“We’ve got some young guys that will be able to contribute and play some key roles at times,’ Hennon said. “I think our younger guys are in a good situation from the standpoint, we’ve got a lot of older guys around them.”
Tyler Owens leads a crowded pitching room, with 21 total pitchers on the roster, as he holds a 7-1 record as the starting pitcher.
Mason McWhorter returns after he led the team with 12 home runs and 57 RBI with a batting average of .321. McWhorter was named to the 2020 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Baseball Team.
The Eagles went undefeated in the fall when they took on College of Charleston and Gordon State College in four exhibition games. This was the second year in a row where the NCAA has allowed Georgia Southern to play exhibition games in the fall.
Hennon feels that these tough early match ups should really help show what their team is made of.
“I’m a big believer that if you want to be a championship team and you want to get to the NCAA regional you have to play those caliber clubs early in the year and that's how you improve and get better,” Hennon said. “I think we were a better team last year as the season progressed and one reason for that is, a lot of the the pitching we faced early in the year were some of the elite arms in the country.”
Hennon also added that playing elite talent helps players improve because then they know what to expect as the season progresses.
The season starts with a five game homestead against Ball State and Georgia Tech and then a three game visit at East Carolina in Greenville, North Carolina.
The Eagles play three schools ranked in the preseason top 40 rankings to start the season, while Sun Belt play doesn’t start till March 13 in a three game homestead against Troy.
Elijah Jackson, The George-Anne Sports Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org