Georgia Southern baseball to begin in two weeks, Eagles look to take on tough schedule

Ryan Kostensky

As February and Opening Day approaches, Georgia Southern Baseball is gearing up for what should be a challenging, yet exciting 2019 campaign.

A year after finishing at 30-26 overall the Eagles are back for more, this time with a significantly tougher non-conference schedule. As per usual, GS will face Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, Mercer and The College of Charleston in home-and-home affairs, as well as welcoming the University of Georgia to Statesboro for a three-game series. In addition to these schedule-staples, the Eagles head West for a three-game series against Auburn before hosting West Virginia. Both UGA and Auburn appear on Baseball America’s 2019 preseason rankings poll at No. 15 and No. 17, respectively.

In-conference where the Eagles finished at 18-11 a year ago, GS is set to play some notable Sun Belt foes, including Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers come into the season ranked at No. 23 and have been a collegiate powerhouse for years. The Eagles face CCU in the middle of April where they will travel to Conway, South Carolina for a three-game series.

The GS offense struggled at times during the 2018 which is expected from a young team, but the experience earned will play a role in the upcoming season. The Eagles will have to rely on a bevy of bats, including junior infielder Mason McWhorter, who led his team in every major offensive category except for triples. Along with McWhorter, who started in and played all 56 games on the season, junior infielders Steven Curry and Mitchell Golden also boast perfect attendance for the season with Curry going 56-for-56 and Golden going 54-54. The consistency that the Eagles saw from their infield bodes well for the feature.

While the fielding wasn’t always the cleanest during the season, Curry and McWhorter stand out- only allowing a combined five errors in over 400 attempts.

On the mound, GS comes into the season with some questions to be answered, losing two of the top pitchers on the roster. RHP Brian Eichhorn was the go-to weekend starter for the Eagles boasting a 3.14 ERA and throwing two shutouts in the process. Eichhorn was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 11th round of the MLB Draft and subsequently signed his contract. GS also lost their fireball-hurling closer Chase Cohen who accounted for five saves while striking out 60 batters in just 47 innings of play. Cohen was drafted in the 9th round of the draft by the Oakland Athletics.

Junior RHP Seth Shuman is now the team’s only weekend starter with legitimate experience, and the Eagles will need to rely on the bullpen arms to do better than a year before. A year after a combined 4.71 ERA, two pitchers that may see their roles significantly increased include senior RHP Cole Whitney and sophomore RHP David Johnson. Whitney lead all relievers with a 1.90 ERA while striking out 53 batters in 61.2 innings pitched. Johnson had a higher ERA at 5.62, but saw a lot of playing time- including 10 starts, as the season progressed.

GS travels to Auburn to start the season with a three-game series starting Feb. 15, and will open the gates to J.I. Clements Stadium for the first time in 2019 to welcome in Georgia Tech on Feb. 19, first pitch set for 6. p.m.

Ryan Kostensky, The George-Anne Sports Reporter,