Georgia Southern eyes Sun Belt Championship in 2016

Kevin Keneely

Georgia Southern University’s baseball team has a history of consistently being a great program, but the 2016 team has far bigger goals than just being great. They want to win the Sun Belt and go on to the NCAA Regionals and hopefully cash in a ticket to Omaha for the College World Series for the first time since 1990.

Coming off a 2015 campaign with many ups and downs, the Eagles are looking to find its way back to the NCAA Regionals this season. However, this will not be an easy task as the team has a lot of reloading to do. They will only be returning 3 positional starters and 2 starting pitchers, but the team is not using that as an excuse.

“In terms of goals, our goals don’t really change year-to-year, we expect to compete for a conference championship and get ourselves in position to get into the Regional Tournament and try to play our way to Omaha,” Head Coach Rodney Hennon said.

Coach Hennon is doing a great job stressing to the team that they can’t live in the present and always work on being better than they were the day before.

“Well you know right now we’re just focused on getting better day-to-day, we are three weeks from opening day and our focus right now is just getting better day-to-day and preparing for Feb. 19,” Hennon said.

Despite losing so much on both offense and defense this offseason, starting pitcher Evan Challenger and the rest of the team strongly believe that this season will not be a rebuilding year.

“I think we are going to be good. I’m really impressed with how deep our staff is. I think its deeper than it has been in years past so I’m looking forward to seeing those guys come out, I think we are going to put up some pretty good numbers,” Challenger said.

Challenger was named to the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team earlier this week. He had a great season last year, going 5-3 with a 2.03 ERA. He redshirted the season in between his freshman and last season for medical reasons, and in that time he was able to work on all his mistakes from his freshman season, and by doing so, his ERA went down from a 4.23 to a team-best 2.03

“I think just controlling my off speed a little more. I’ve added some more pitches this year so I’m working on making that a part of my everyday pitching,” Challenger said in regards to what he hopes to improve on before the season starts.

The team starts their season a little over two weeks from now, Feb. 19, at UGA. Georgia Southern is 7-2 against UGA over the past three seasons and hopes to improve on that head-to-head record.

“Again our focus right now, we’ve gotta get better tomorrow than we were today. Georgia is going to be there in three weeks and we’ll be ready to compete come February 19th, but right now our focus has got to be just making improvement one day at a time,” Hennon said.

The team will be hoping to start the season off strong and get things going early after ending last season in a not so glamorous way, losing their first two games in the conference tournament and quickly being eliminated. Doing so will take lots and lots of practice and Coach Hennon knows exactly what it is the team needs to work on in order to make it to the next level.

“Well we are trying to improve on several areas from last season. One, defensively I feel like we’ve gotta improve from where we were last year, that was an area where we struggled for a good portion of the year. And offensively get back to doing some little things, we’ve worked hard on our two strike approach and cutting down our strikeouts and trying to do some things to put a little more pressure on the defense. Those are the two biggest areas that we feel like we really need to improve on,” Hennon said.

With all this practice and optimism in the locker room, this upcoming season will be one to follow. Make sure you come out to support the Eagles in their first home game Wednesday Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.