2014 UGA baseball season begins Friday at Foley Field
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2014 UGA baseball season begins Friday at Foley Field

Foley Field
Photo: UGA Athletics

Athens, Ga. – Georgia will open the 2014 baseball season Friday at 5 p.m. when it plays host to Georgia Southern at Foley Field.

It will mark the Bulldog debut for head coach Scott Stricklin, who was named the 25th Georgia baseball coach in school history last June. He posted a record of 350-188 during the past nine years at his alma mater, Kent State, including leading them to five NCAA Regionals and the 2012 College World Series.

Georgia will start sophomore right-hander Sean McLaughlin while the Eagles counter with junior left-hander Sam Howard. McLaughlin earned All-Freshmen Southeastern Conference honors last year after going 5-6 with a 3.28 ERA. The Bulldogs went 21-32 while the Eagles went 27-32. Howard registered a 6-7 record and a 5.55 ERA for GSU. In 2013, McLaughlin became the first true freshman in Bulldog history to start a season opener, and he picked up a win over the Eagles in Statesboro. Meanwhile, Howard pitched game two of the three-game series against Georgia and notched a victory. The Eagles, coached by Rodney Hennon, claimed the series 2-1.

The rest of the pitching matchups for the series will be Georgia sophomore left-hander Ryan Lawlor making his debut against GSU junior right-hander Josh Wirsu on Saturday at 1 p.m. Then on Sunday at 1 p.m., it will be Bulldog senior left-hander Patrick Boling (3-7, 4.17 ERA in 2013) against GSU sophomore right-hander Ryan Frederick.

Depth is a word that Stricklin used when asked about how the Bulldogs have looked during their preseason scrimmages.

“I like the depth of our pitching staff, and our lineup, when healthy, will be good. However, we lack depth among our position players,” said Stricklin. “We need to be healthy by the start of SEC play. We’ve got a great group of kids; they have handled the transition well. We’ve pushed them hard, and they’ve responded well. I like where we are and we’ll see what happens starting Friday.”

Freshman Mike Bell, who was projected to start at shortstop, will miss the first few weeks of the season due to a broken hand. Junior Nelson Ward, who has 54 career starts at second base, will make his first start at shortstop Friday. Junior transfer Cody McCance is projected to start at second base. Elsewhere in the lineup, freshman Stephen Wrenn is slated to start in center field and bat leadoff. Wrenn was a 28th round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves last June while Bell was a 37th round selection of the Miami Marlins.

“Stephen has been one of our best guys all fall and in the preseason, he has handled everything well,” Stricklin added. “He has good instincts; he has got all the intangibles to be a great player.”

Ward is Georgia’s top returning hitter while the top power threats back are junior outfielder Hunter Cole and sophomore catcher Zack Bowers. Ward batted .306-2-19 last year while Cole hit .303-4-33 and Bowers finished at .240-6-16. A trio of Bulldogs in outfielder Conor Welton, pitcher Pete Nagel and catcher/pitcher Brandon Stephens return in 2014 after missing last year while recovering from injuries. They look to contribute heavily this season.

Here’s a few interesting tidbits about Georgia Baseball.

– Foley Field has served as the home for the Bulldogs since 1966. A $12 million renovation project, known as the “Foley Field Revival,” will begin after this season. It is slated to be ready for Opening Day 2015. For more on the project, see the link at www.thegeorgiabulldogclub.com.

– As the oldest varsity sport on campus dating back to 1886, the baseball team will begin its 125th season Friday. The Bulldogs did not field a team during 1944 or 1945. Overall, Georgia sports a record of 2,117-1619-23.

– Ward and senior pitcher Dylan Cole have been named the team captains for 2014.

Baseball season tickets and single game tickets are now on sale through georgiadogs.com. Single game reserved seats are $8 each while general admission tickets are $5 apiece. To order tickets online, follow this link: http://gado.gs/74

Also, fans can call the Georgia ticket office at 877-542-1231 between 8:30 am-4:30 pm Monday-Friday. For Group Ticket information, please call 706-542-9003.

Fan can subscribe to GTV and listen to every game online through georgiadogs.com. Almost every Georgia baseball home game not already televised will feature live streaming video on GTV. Monthly subscriptions are available for $9.95/month, and include all video & audio content. To sign up, visit http://www.georgiadogs.com/allaccess/ and click on the Subscribe link in the upper left hand corner of the page. Georgia baseball will broadcast locally on either WRFC 960 AM or WGAU 1340 AM as the Athens flagship as well as 1230 AM The Fan 2 in Atlanta.

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