Eagles open up at UGA

File Photo by: Randy Hudgins

Colin Ritsick

Head Coach Rodney Hennon will enter his 15th year at the helm of Georgia Southern University’s baseball team this weekend as the Eagles open their 2014 campaign at the University of Georgia.

This is the second year in a row that GSU will open the year against the Bulldogs. Last season, the Eagles took two of three against No. 29 UGA at home.

Last year was also the first time in Hennon’s tenure at GSU that his team failed to win 30 games.

But with a new year, comes a new team.

Literally.

There are 23 new faces on the 2014 roster and only 18 returning players.

Of the new class of Eagles, 14 are freshman and the rest are transfers or walk-ons.

This signing class was heralded by Collegiate Baseball as one of the top classes in the nation. They rank classes from No. 1 to No. 40 and GSU was listed under ‘other top recruiting classes’ – an Honorable Mention of sorts. Samford University and Appalachian State University were also on the list and the University of Florida is ranked No. 1.

While Hennon will look to a handful of the new guys to play consistently and be leaders, it will be the core nucleus of returning players that will carry this ball club.

That nucleus features senior infielders Ben Morgan and Stryker Brown, junior catcher Chase Griffin, junior pitchers Sam Howard and Will Middour, junior outfielder Hunter Thomas and senior outfielder Robbie Dodds.

Morgan is a utility infielder who started all 59 games of the season last year. He started at shortstop for the majority of the time but also dabbled at third base and second base. He was the best offensive asset for the Eagles leading the team in batting average (.307), hits (74) and on-base percentage (.388) among many other categories.

Griffin is the workhorse. As a sophomore he started every single game behind the plate. There aren’t many teams in the country that can say they had one catcher start every game. He hit .272 with 47 RBI and has good power. While he only took four balls deep last year, he led the country in home runs by a freshman for much of the year in 2012.

Howard will get the ball on Friday and comes into this season as the team’s No.1 pitcher. A 6-foot-3 southpaw, he averaged 9.28 strikeouts/9 innings last year. He has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career at GSU and big things are expected from him this year.

As for the freshman/transfers – look for junior outfielder Aaron Mizell, junior RHP Eric Alonzo and freshman catcher CJ Brazil to contribute. Brazil will get playing time in order to rest Griffin’s legs, but the other two hail from successful junior college programs and will be expected to contribute immediately.

Friday’s game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. All three games can be heard on the Georgia Southern Radio Network (Boomer 103.7).