After Georgia Southern manhandled the Georgia Bulldogs, 11-2, on Sunday to take two games in the three-game series, Ben Morgan said it best.
The middle-infielder-turned third baseman basically said that this GSU team doesn’t have any first- or second-round picks. There are no All-Stars, and no pitchers striking fear into the hearts of lineups across the nation.
And he’s absolutely right.
There’s no Victor Roache hitting a home run every 10 at-bats. There’s no Chris Beck blowing a mid-90s fastball past a cleanup hitter.
For the 2013 Eagles, that’s just the way they want it.
Morgan also said that this is the tightest group he’s played with in his three years at GSU — just a bunch of good ballplayers showing up to the park and playing as a team.
Now, just to get this out of the way, the UGA team the Eagles took the series from isn’t the best team Georgia Southern will face this season. It isn’t even the best team on the schedule this week.
What the series did, though, was prove Morgan’s point.
The Eagles aren’t as power-heavy as teams in the past, but guys like Chase Griffin, T.D. Davis, Hunter Thomas and Casey Kicklighter, if he can time up the off-speed stuff, will hit their share over the fence.
There won’t be any fastballs coming off the mound that are going to blow anybody off the plate, but if GSU can keep its weekend starters on the mound until the fifth, sixth, and even seventh inning like it did against the Bulldogs, the bullpen, which is light on numbers but heavy on talent, will be just fine.
There isn’t a lot of speed up and down the lineup, but when leadoff hitter Scooter Williams and Morgan, the two-hole hitter, get across the plate in the first inning of each ballgame, it bodes well for the top half of the lineup.
And what about defense?
If redshirt freshman Kyle Streicher is good enough to move Williams from center to right, and true freshman Cole Watson is good enough at shortstop to afford the luxury of moving Morgan to third, that bodes awfully well.
Yes, there may not be a marquee player on the 2013 Eagles, but that doesn’t mean the team can’t reach the holy grail of 40 wins in the regular season.
There’s just a lot that has to go right.
— The pitching staff has to stay healthy.
The Eagles are nowhere near deep enough in the bullpen to be able to afford losing an arm. The good news, though, is that all of them know that there’s nowhere to hide. All of them have a role.
— Cole Watson has to be Ben Morgan.
Watson, a true freshman, needs to be able to advance baserunners and extend innings. When Morgan was an underclassman, that was his job in the bottom half of the order. Now, that’s Watson’s job, because Morgan’s been asked to do a lot from the two-hole.
Can Watson lay down a bunt? Can he hit .280?
—Who’s the designated hitter?
The Eagles had Garren Palmer (2-for-6, RBI, 4 K in the opening series) and Arthur Owens (1-for-3, 2 RBI) in the DH role over the weekend. There are a lot of other options on the bench, too (Kicklighter, Zac Lenns, Stryker Brown, Brent Pugh/Tyler Avera, and even Griffin, when he takes a day off behind the plate). Can the Eagles find a combination that will consistently to hit .300 and drive in runs?
There are a lot of things that have to go right for this Georgia Southern team to make a run in 2013. The good news is that they know it. This is a team that knows itself. It’s a team that understands that the little things matter. They know that if they came out of the gate on opening night and played loose, stayed within themselves, they’d have swept the Bulldogs.
The challenge for this team — and it’s no easy task — is to show up to the ballpark the same way each and every day whether they’re playing UGA, Florida, Indiana or Kennesaw State.
They have to stay focused, because this likely won’t be a team that gets bailed out by three-run homers very often.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.