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My Take: GSU's lineup a good problem to have

My Take: GSU's lineup a good problem to have

My Take: GSU's lineup a good problem to have

Georgia Southern first baseman Ryan C...

When the toughest part of putting together a lineup is figuring out which .300 hitter needs to get left out, you’re in pretty good shape.
    Georgia Southern (10-2) has had a dramatic turnaround in offense since a disappointing 2013 season, averaging over 10 runs per game, compared to 5.6 last year.
    Just to put it into perspective, the Eagles hit 32 home runs in 2013. They’re on pace to hit 100 this year. Ben Morgan and Robbie Dodds were the only hitters with a batting average north of .300 in 2013, and right now, there’s three batters hitting over .400. Nine are hitting above .300.
    “It’s good to have options,” GSU coach Rodney Hennon said. “There’s a lot of healthy competition within our team right now. I think that’s helped guys perform at a high level up to this point.”
    Morgan had more home runs last season than any other returning player (6). Newcomer Aaron Mizell already has five through 12 games.
    The only outfield position that seems to be solidified is right, where Mizell (.425, 16 RBIs), barring injury, will have to work awfully hard to get rubbed out of the lineup.
    Centerfield has a bit of a battle brewing between Kody Adams and Josh Black, a couple of rangy guys with speed and a decent bat. Stryker Brown (.395, 3 HR, 4 2B, 19 RBIs) has shined in left, but there are also guys like Dodds, Garren Palmer and Hunter Thomas who certainly don’t hurt you when they’re in the lineup.
    The infield has been consistent, with Garrett Chapman, Dalton Busby, Morgan and Ryan Cleveland going from left to right on your dial, but Dodds and catcher Chase Griffin are capable of sliding over to first and freshman Aaron Palmer, who has been serving a suspension for “violation of team rules” since the offseason, will add another bat and glove into the equation.
    C.J. Brazil has proven a capable backup at catcher and can hit, too.
    The Eagles have been successfully stealing bases (27), hitting for extra bases (54) and driving in runs (120).
    The only weakness so far has been small ball. The Eagles had plenty of scoring opportunities in Friday’s 3-2 loss to Ohio but couldn't get down a bunt or find a timely hit in crunch time.
    When the bats get quiet there are guys in the dugout who can step in to help, but when the whole team hits a lull — and it will — the little things will be the difference between 45 wins or 32.
    Other than that, the only problem is getting everyone in to contribute.
    “The tough thing is that there are some guys that haven’t been in the lineup who deserve to play, who haven’t done anything to take themselves out, it’s just that maybe some other guys are swinging a hot bat,” Hennon said.
    The solution to that problem, if you can call it a problem, is making sure everybody has the same goal.
    “It’s a good problem to have,” Hennon said. “The most important thing for our team is to continue to be unselfish and put the team first, and they've done that. I keep telling them, ‘It’s going to take every guy in that dugout to accomplish what we want to accomplish.’ We’ve got an awful long way to go. Some of those guys who haven’t played lately, we’re going to need them.”
    The Eagles’ pitching has compiled a team earned-run average of 2.86, so that can hardly be called a weakness, but the fielding has a lot to be desired. They’ve committed 18 errors through 12 games and, well, that’s way, way too many.
    If the pitching keeps doing what its doing, and the gloves get shorn up on the infield, the bats will do enough to make the last trip through the Southern Conference a memorable one.
    Next up for GSU is a former SoCon rival, College of Charleston. First pitch will be at 6 p.m., weather permitting. Eric Alonzo (3-0, 1.17 ERA) will get the start.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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