‘Excitement, anticipation’ and ice await Bulldogs in delayed season opener

Amidst a state of emergency issued due to an onslaught of ice and snow, Georgia baseball has an opening series with Georgia Southern to prepare for. 

The Bulldogs are set to throw out the first pitch of their 2014 season at noon Saturday against the Eagles in Game 1 of a doubleheader. However, Georgia wasn’t able to take the field for its team practice on Wednesday afternoon.

First-year head coach Scott Stricklin, who came to Athens by way of Kent State, is no stranger to coaching or playing America’s pastime in harsh winter conditions. 

“When you start your season in February, unless you’re in Hawaii or Florida, you’re going to have some weather issues from time to time,” Stricklin said. “This time of year pretty much every team deals with it, and it’s just something we have to deal with.”

Stricklin didn’t conduct practice on Wednesday, but wanted his players living on campus to get some individual work in. For everyone else, he issued a request to stay indoors. 

“We didn’t want them driving in their cars at all,” Stricklin said. “I didn’t want my coaching staff to be out on the roads, so (Wednesday) was a day that they could go down there and hit on their own. Guys on campus could walk to the field and try to get some work in, but we didn’t want them in their cars.”

After what Stricklin and his players have referred to as a highly productive preseason following a disappointing 2013 campaign, Georgia has experienced a few speed bumps on its way to opening weekend. 

The Bulldogs will play their opening series, and the first nine games of the 2014 season, without junior pitcher and first baseman Jared Walsh. Walsh was suspended for violating team rules. Along with Walsh, the Bulldogs will face Georgia Southern without their starting shortstop, Mike Bell. 

Bell, a freshman infielder from Fairburn, will miss at least two weeks after suffering a broken hand, Stricklin said. This weekend’s series will give Stricklin a chance to see what his reserves can offer. 

“We’d like to have him (Bell) back and be at full strength, but overall I like our club,” Stricklin said. “I like the mindset we have. I think we’ve got a chance to be very good. It’s just going to take a little time for us to get healthy and get at full strength, and when we do that I think we’ve got a chance to be a very good team.”

As far as the Walsh suspension goes, Stricklin is confident he has players that can fill the void his suspension left in the Bulldogs’ rotation. 

“They’re very good. The word that I use to describe our pitching staff is deep,” Stricklin said. “I think we’ve got a lot of guys that can contribute; more than most staffs. I’m not so sure we have as many high-end guys as most of the teams that we’ll play, but when you go right across the board I think we’ve got depth that can go with anybody, and maybe better than anyone.”

Georgia Southern has two starters Georgia isn’t familiar with. While Georgia’s offense will have its hands full with Georgia Southern’s junior lefty Sam Howard in Saturday’s first game, the Bulldogs will have to adjust quickly in their following two matchups. 

“We’ve got some information on them, but it’s certainly not complete,” Stricklin said. “It’s the same thing with us. They’ve got some information on us, but we’ve got some new players in our program as well.”

Though Georgia has had to deal with frozen conditions, costly suspensions and injuries over the past two weeks, Stricklin isn’t worried about his team’s level of preparedness for its first series. 

“I don’t know if you want to call them nerves, but it’s those opening-game jitters,” Stricklin said. “It’s more of excitement and anticipation.”

As of now, the series-opening double-header between Georgia and Georgia Southern is set to start at noon on Saturday at Foley Field, with the final game in the home series slated to start at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“The biggest issue is getting the ice off the tarp,” Stricklin said. “It (the field) is covered, but now you’ve got that buildup of ice on it. You can’t pull the tarp if you’ve got an inch of ice on it.”

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RT @Dawg_Post: @Dawg_Post “From what I understand he can play this fall” Vasser can not play this fall. He is a 2015 commit. Sorry for the …

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