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Georgia Southern Baseball - Eagles look to bounce back after shaky 2023
GS Baseball

The Georgia Southern baseball team has set the bar pretty high.

Head coach Rodney Hennon enters his 25th season with over 800 career victories at Georgia Southern. In his time, the Eagles have advanced to six NCAA regionals, including hosting a regional for the first time in program history in 2022.

Coming off the historic 2022 campaign, the Eagles took a step back last season. Southern finished with a record of 27-29 and were 16-14 in Sun Belt play. Hennon was as frustrated as anyone after last year, but was particularly upset in finishing the regular season going 7-9 and bowing out in the first round of the Sun Belt tournament.

“We failed to reach the standard we have set here and it was especially disappointing how we finished the season,” Hennon said. “Each year you want to get better as the season goes along and unfortunately, we didn’t play really well down the stretch.”

Hennon did some evaluating over the off-season in order to address some issues from last year. Among the areas he feels are much improved is the pitching staff, as well as the speed and defense of the team.

“We feel like we have brought in a good group of guys to go along with a solid core of players returning,” Hennon said. “On the mound, we feel like we needed to have some depth. We have some experienced guys there including the three guys who will get the ball this weekend. Thomas Higgins will be the opening day starter. Mitchell Gross will start game two, and Ty Fisher on Sunday providing us three veteran guys. The plan is to use Ben Johnson as our closer and we also get Jake Martin back after missing last year with an injury.”

Hennon also felt it was important to increase the athleticism on the team and shore up the defense to give them more consistency.

“Our speed and athleticism stood out in the fall,” Hennon said. “We have two preseason All-Sun Belt guys coming back in third baseman Jarrett Brown (.294, 12 HRs 69 RBI) and Sam Blancato (.303, 12 doubles, 45 RBI). Jarrett has gotten better every year and Sam played hurt most of last year, but returns healthy this season and will play some first base as well as the outfield. J.D. Kaiser did some good things for us last year behind the plate as well as Shawn White, who is coming off an injury and may split time with him.”

The Eagle outfield could be one of the biggest strengths of the team and is an area full of newcomers headlined by centerfielder and Vanderbilt transfer T.J. McKenzie.

“T.J. has been impressive in centerfield,” Hennon said. “The team thinks so highly of him they have made him one of the captains this year which speaks to his character. Other guys lake Daniel Haab (Gordan State) and Josh Tate (Georgia) could see some time in the outfield and can both run and are athletic. We also have some guys in the infield like Luke Odden (Wabash Valley College) and Cade Parker (Gulf Coast State) are junior college guys who have looked good out in scrimmages.”

The Eagles open the season Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the first of a three-game series against Maryland. Like the Eagles, the Terrapins hosted a regional two years ago and won the Big-10 the past two seasons. Hennon knows they will be a formidable foe this weekend.

“They are going to be well-coached and talented,” Hennon said. “They have been to the NCAA regionals the last two years. They lost some of the guys who were a part of those two runs, but have a few core guys back and we expect a battle this weekend.”

Georgia Southern and Maryland are scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start Friday followed by a 2 p.m. Saturday start before wrapping things up Sunday with a 1 p.m. first pitch.