New year, new team

Colin Ritsick

Only 19 players on the 2014 Southern Conference Champion’s 35-man roster are back on this year’s roster.

That means that a lot of new faces. Head coach Rodney Hennon recognized the problems that arise from a team that hasn’t faced any adversity together, but he knows that time will come.

“I think that’s kind of a process that’s ongoing. I like where we’re at now, at this stage. But every year is different. Every team is different,” Hennon said. “You go through the ups and downs of a season…and that’s when you find out where your teams are. We haven’t played a game yet so this team hasn’t had a chance to experience any of that yet. But that will start beginning Friday.”

The most notable absence from last year’s lineup, offensively at least, is Garrett Chapman. Chapman transferred to the College of Charleston in the offseason.

Chapman primarily played third base for the Eagles and was the team’s best hitter. He ended the year with a .341 average, eight home runs and 32 RBI.

Hennon didn’t give a reason for the transfer.

The rest of the offensive lineup looks pretty good, with most of the big bats returning. The Eagles will rely on some of those new faces, or players with minimal experience, to fill in the gaps left from last season.

Matt McCall led the team with nine saves last year while eating up 66.2 innings. He graduated, leaving the closer spot open. Junior college transfer Chris Brown is slated to fill in that spot.

“Chris Brown is a guy that will have a key role down in the bullpen, late in the games,” Hennon said. Brown transferred from Chattahoochee Valley where he threw 24 innings and struck out 33 batters while posting a 1.12 ERA last season.

10 of the 19 new players are JuCo transfers.

Adding established players is nothing new to college baseball, but the quantity in which they are coming to GSU is. Last season, seven junior college players transferred to Georgia Southern. Of those seven, two were drafted and three will be starters this year.

“We’re going to try to get the best players to fill our needs every year,” Hennon said. “It kind of varies year to year. We’re not going to be tied down to going one direction or another.”

Many times, like last year with pitcher’s Josh Wirsu and Eric Alonzo, junior college players will transfer to a big school their junior year after establishing themselves at junior colleges. This move increases their odds of exposure and getting drafted.

Bringing in new players every season is tough for those on the team already. But it’s hard to argue with a conference championship. However, Hennon doesn’t see it as a trend that will continue, necessarily.

Hennon said, “If you look at our signing class that will come in this coming year and start in August, it’s predominantly high school guys.”