Athens, GA - The University of Georgia baseball team officially opens fall practice Monday at Foley Field.
Scott Stricklin is in his first season directing the Bulldogs after spending the past nine years at his alma mater, Kent State. Stricklin was hired this past June after leading the Golden Flashes to five NCAA Regionals including the 2012 College World Series during his tenure at KSU.
The Bulldogs return six starting position players plus all three members of their starting rotation and a majority of the bullpen from last year’s squad. The Bulldogs missed the postseason after going 21-32 with a .279 team batting average, a 4.54 ERA and a .976 fielding percentage.
Georgia’s veteran position players returning include junior outfielder Hunter Cole (.303-4-33), junior infielder Nelson Ward (.306-2-19) and junior first baseman/pitcher Jared Walsh. He batted .297-3-26 and ended the year in the starting rotation, finishing 2-4 with a 3.35 ERA. Georgia welcomes back sophomore pitcher/outfielder Sean McLaughlin and senior left-hander Patrick Boling. McLaughlin went 5-6 with a 3.28 ERA and earned All-Freshmen Southeastern Conference honors. Boling passed on a chance to sign with the Washington Nationals after getting drafted in the 32nd round. Boling went 3-7 with a 4.17 ERA in 11 starts last year.
Also, the Bulldogs have three starters back from the 2012 team after they missed the entire 2013 season while recovering from injuries. Sophomore pitcher Pete Nagel (1-1, 3.78 ERA, 3 SV), junior outfielder Conor Welton (.271-0-26) and junior catcher/pitcher Brandon Stephens (.221-1-10) are ready to contribute.
Three members of Georgia’s freshmen class turned down a chance to begin their professional career after getting selected in the Major League Baseball draft this past June. Outfielder Stephen Wrenn (28th round, Atlanta), pitcher Robert Tyler (28th round, Baltimore) and shortstop Michael Bell (37th round, Miami) are expected to make an immediate impact.
A schedule of scrimmages has not been set at this time. The 2014 season begins on Feb. 14. Georgia’s complete 56-game schedule is being finalized and will be released later this year.