UGA baseball to mix in freshmen with veterans on the mound, at the plate

Georgia will begin preseason baseball practice under an Arctic blast.

AJ Reynolds/Staff
Georgia third baseman Curt Powell throws to first base for an out during a game on May 15 in Athens. Powell is one of just six seniors on the Diamond Dogs' 41-man 2013 roster.

But it will try to heat up its bats in time for the spring season.

“Confidence is a huge deal,” Georgia third baseman Curt Powell said. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen and we’ve got a lot of upperclassmen, which definitely helps us. I think we do have a lot of confidence and the older guys need to show that we have a lot of confidence and have a trickle-down effect. We’ve got a lot of guys back who were on that team two years ago that won our way to regionals, so we’ve got some good experience.”

Georgia officially begins preseason workouts on Saturday at Foley Field. The season begins with a three-game weekend series at Georgia Southern on Feb. 15-17. The first home game is against Kennesaw State on Feb. 20.

“I think we’re farther along now than we’ve been in a few years,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “We’re pretty well set with our lineup, barring anything unforeseen. We’ve got a good mix of veterans with some younger guys. There’s two things we need to get going and both have to do with confidence. A, we’ve got to believe we’ve got a good lineup, and B, we’ve got to believe that we’ve got enough pitching. We don’t have the inning eaters coming back, but we’ve got really good arms, and I just don’t buy into the freshmen-can’t-produce thing. We’ve had really good freshmen over the years who have made a big impact.”

Georgia’s offense struggled most of last season. The Bulldogs had the sixth-best batting average in the Southeastern Conference last year at .279. But they scored 279 runs, which was the third-lowest total in the league and their 25 home runs was the fourth-lowest. Georgia’s three biggest offensive cogs return with top RBI producer Kyle Farmer (.302 average, four home runs, 41 RBIs), top home run hitter Hunter Cole (.276-7-23) and the team’s leader in batting average, Powell (.355-2-20).

“When we take B.P. (batting practice), I’ve seen more balls go over the fence than I’ve seen in a long time,” Farmer said. “We’ve got a good mixture of power and a good mixture of speed in the lineup. This is the most lefties I’ve seen in the lineup as well, so it should be a good combination of everything.”

Several freshmen inexperienced sophomores will likely have an impact on the lineup. Freshmen Daniel Nichols, Sean McLaughlin and J.T. Phillips along with sophomores Nelson Ward, Justin Bryan and Jared Walsh impressed Perno during fall workouts and will get opportunities for extended playing time.

“We look pretty good,” Farmer said. “Our lineup is really well put-together. In the first practice there’s going to be some bumps and bruises. We just want to go out there and have some fun. Everybody needs to get comfortable. It’s the first time we’ve been together on the field since the fall.”

One high-profile freshman who won’t be in the mix is Kyle Carter, who was arrested twice in the fall semester and transferred in December.

“It’s obviously tough to say what kind of impact he’d have for someone who never even played a game here,” Perno said. “That’s not really a factor.”

Georgia lost inning-eating starters Alex Wood and Michael Palazzone last season. Projected closer Pete Nagel had to undergo Tommy John surgery in the fall, which opened holes in the pitching staff. Perno plans to employ an unusual rotation by tag-teaming young starters with veteran relievers.

“At least starting off, we’re not going to put too much pressure on our starters,” Perno said. “We’re going to go one-two-three and then have some piggy-back guys who can come in and protect them. We’re not looking for six or seven innings from our starters even when they’re in shape. We’re looking for four or five innings and then give it to a Blake Dieterich or a Bryan Benzor or a Patrick Boling. Those veteran guys are there to protect Luke Crumley and Sean McLaughlin and David Gonzalez with Grant Earls as kind of the seventh one. So there’s seven guys that we’re going to take right now and start building them up so they can go out there and throw. We’re just not going to be looking for 90 or 110 pitches. We’re going to be looking at 60 to 75.”

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by Marc Weiszer

Georgia was hit with injuries at every offensive skill position last season. AJ Reynolds/StaffGeorgia third baseman Curt Powell throws to first base for an out during a... Full Story

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