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Play ball! GSU baseball starts today
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    How exactly did Georgia Southern lure the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Boston College to venture down to Statesboro for a season-opening weekend series with the Eagles?
    “We just made a phone call,” said ninth-year GSU coach Rodney Hennon, whose squad kicks off the 2008 season tonight with a 7 o’clock game at J.I. Clements Stadium.
    It helped that Hennon had a little bit of a background with BC assistant coach Joe Hastings, who Hennon recruited to Western Carolina back when Hennon was an assistant coach for the Catamounts. Plus, Hennon knew a team from the North would probably jump at the opportunity to escape the snow for a few days.
    “We felt like they would be a great team to play — a big-name ACC opponent early,” Hennon said. “I think our fans will be excited about them coming in here. It’s a program I think certainly is on the way up.”
    As mandated by the NCAA, the start of this year’s baseball season is about three weeks later than usual. Eagle players think they’ll adjust to the compacted schedule right away and don’t expect to see much of an impact.
    “If anything, it’s just given us more time to prepare,” junior catcher Griffin Benedict said. “It’s smashing games into a lesser period of time, so pitchers are going to be used more, players are going to have to hit more and stay hot longer. If our offense is hot, we’re playing a lot of games so we’ll be hot. At the same time if we’re cold, we’re going to (have to battle through it).”
    The uniform start date was developed so Southern teams wouldn’t start their seasons early while schools in the North were limited by winter weather. Essentially, it put everyone in the same boat.
    “You are going to need to have five starting pitchers, and you’re going to need to have depth in the bullpen,” Hennon said. “Our goal is for these guys to have the opportunity to go out and pitch, compete and get better day to day and week to week. These guys are determined to do that.”
    The Eagles are anticipating an aggressive Boston College team with a blue-collar mentality. BC finished last season with a 24-27-1 record (12-17 ACC) and returns two of its top three hitters - third baseman Eric Campbell (.350) and catcher Tony Sanchez (.318). Georgia Southern, which was 34-28 (13-14 SoCon) a year ago, is anxious to see how it stacks up.
    “We’re really excited,” Benedict said. “We’re confident. A team like Boston College brings excitement because we don’t know much about them and they are a big-name school. It’s time to start playing somebody else, so everyone’s looking forward to (tonight).”
    After the weekend series with Boston College, the Eagles hit the road for a pair of mid-week games against another ACC team – Georgia Tech.
    “I’ve always believed you’ve got to play good people,” Hennon said. “We’ve never shied away from playing anybody. We are all learning about our teams the first part of the season. I think our kids are excited about playing the teams we have on our schedule. It’ll be a great challenge for us, but it’s also a great opportunity.”

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.