ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s 2013 baseball team is set to make some history with the first pitch thrown to an opposing hitter.
(Photo courtesy of UGA Sports Communications)
For the first time in 41 years such records have been kept, the Diamond Dogs are set to send a true freshman to the mound on opening day. Right-hander Sean McLaughlin of Johns Creek, Ga., is slated to start Friday’s 6 p.m. season opener at Georgia Southern.
McLaughlin was 7-2 with a 1.77 earned run average and 76 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings as a senior at Northview (Ga.) High School. The Atlanta Braves selected him in the 38th round of last year’s first-year player draft, though McLaughlin chose the college route. A .419 hitter in high school, he’ll double as an outfielder for the Bulldogs.
His emergence as a rookie ace for Georgia's opening weekend, however, highlights the most glaring need for this year’s team. While five starters return in the lineup and seven pitchers overall do as well, the Bulldogs must replace departed Alex Wood and Michael Palazzone, pitchers who combined to start 29 games last season.
Following McLaughlin in this weekend’s expected rotation is left-hander Patrick Boling (Jr., 1-2, 5.62 ERA last season) for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game and right-hander Luke Crumley (Soph., 3-2, 3.86) for Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. game in Statesboro.
While pitching entering the season is a question mark for Georgia, there are a few more answers at the plate.
The team’s three top home run hitters from a year ago – Hunter Cole, Kyle Farmer and Justin Bryan – are all back. Third baseman Curt Powell (team-high .355 average) also returns to round out what should be a capable batting order for the Bulldogs.
Georgia finished 31-26 last season, missing the NCAA tournament. This year’s team has been projected to finish fifth in the SEC’s Eastern Division by preseason vote of the league’s coaches.
C Brett DeLoach (Jr., .303, 1 HR, 21 RBI)
1B/P J.T. Phillips (Fr.)
2B Nelson Ward (Soph., .277, 13 RBI)
3B Curt Powell (Sr., .355, 2 HR, 20 RBI)
SS Kyle Farmer (Sr., .302, 4 HR, 41 RBI)
LF Justin Bryan (Soph., .289, 4 HR, 13 RBI)
CF Hunter Cole (Soph., .276, 7 HR, 23 RBI)
RF/P Jared Walsh (Soph., .176, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
DH Daniel Nichols (Fr.)
Information courtesy of Christopher Lakos/UGA Sports Communications