On Thursday, Georgia will begin Fall Ball at Foley Field with the goal of getting in 27 practices over the next 45 days.
There will be no exhibitions against other teams this fall, but teams can still practice and have intra-squad scrimmages like the annual Red and Black World Series. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all practices and scrimmages at Foley Field are closed to the general public.
Georgia will enter the fall with 44 players on the roster as Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin begins his eighth season at the helm. The Bulldogs have 10 position players who have made starts in their career, and 10 pitchers who saw action last year. After the pandemic shut down most of the collegiate leagues this past summer, the Bulldogs have been steadily preparing to return to the diamond this month. Here’s a look at who’s back:
Veteran Position Players (Career Starts): Ben Anderson (CF, 70 games), Garrett Blaylock (3B, 17 games), Buddy Floyd (2B, 8 games), Randon Jernigan (OF, 37 games), Riley King (INF/OF, 79 games), Shane Marshall (C, 30 games), Mason Meadows (C, 91 games), Chaney Rogers (1B/OF, 49 games), Cole Tate (INF, 19 games) and Connor Tate (OF/DH, 21 games).
Veteran Rotation Candidates: (RHP): Garrett Brown (1-2, 4.96 ERA, 4 starts, 16.1 IP), Jonathan Cannon (3-0, 0.00 ERA 5 games, 11.1 IP), Will Childers (1-0, 0.79 ERA, 5 games, 1 start, 11.1 IP), Michael Polk (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 games, 5.0 IP); (LHP): C.J. Smith (0-1, 3.32 ERA, 4 starts, 19 IP) and Ryan Webb (2-0, 1.20 ERA, 1 SV, 15 IP).
Experienced Relievers (RHP): Nolan Crisp (21 games for UF), Jack Gowen (13 games), Logan Moody (14 games, 4 starts), Darryn Pasqua (13 games), Brandon Smith (3 games), Ben Harris (1 game for UVA).
With the abbreviated 2020 season, several Bulldogs didn’t get a chance to make their debut. Now, they are aiming to make an impact this fall. These Bulldogs include Kameron Guidry (INF), Joshua McAllister (INF), Josh Stinson (OF/INF) and Lane Watkins (OF/C/1B) along with pitchers Charlie Goldstein (LHP) and Bryce Melear (RHP).
Georgia’s incoming recruiting class was ranked as high as No. 10 by Perfect Game USA. This year’s crop features 15 freshmen plus one transfer in sophomore pitcher Nolan Crisp, a Georgia native who began his career at Florida. He will be eligible this season after being granted a waiver by the SEC last month. Crisp went 4-4 with eight saves for the Gators in 2019 before being sidelined with an injury for the first part of 2020 and then the season was canceled due to the pandemic.
Georgia welcomes a pair of highly-touted freshmen catchers in Corey Collins and Fernando Gonzalez. A trio of left-handed newcomers who will join the competition for a rotation spot will be Patrick Holloman, Luke Wagner (LHP/OF) and Jaden Woods. Wagner along with Ben Harris (OF/LHP), who sat out last season after transferring from the University of Virginia, are two-way candidates. Freshmen infielders eyeing playing time include Parks Harber, Caleb Ketchup and Garrett Spikes plus two rookie outfielders in Dwight Allen and Trippe Moore III. Additionally, Georgia’s depth on the mound will include left-handers Collin Caldwell and Liam Sullivan along with right-handers Hank Bearden, Max DeJong and Will Pearson. First baseman candidate Ryland Goede will join the team again in the spring once he is done with football. A redshirt freshman, Goede is a tight end.
The NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility for all spring athletes from the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic canceling that year. With the extra year, college baseball will have no roster limit (which is normally 35) in the 2021 season. The 2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft will be at least 20 rounds (and could be as many as 30) after it was shortened to just five rounds this past year. The draft will be held during All-Star Week in Atlanta, from July 11-13 before the 91st MLB All-Star Game at Truist Park. This will be the first time since the MLB Draft began in 1965 that it will not be held in June.
The Bulldogs ended the 2020 campaign ranked as high as No. 2 nationally. Along with being one of the nation’s best on the field, Georgia was just as impressive in the classroom. The Bulldogs were the only SEC baseball team that was publicly recognized by the NCAA for outstanding achievement in the annual NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) report. The Bulldogs earned APR distinction in 2020 by posting their highest mark in program history. A school record 26 student-athletes earned a spot on the Spring SEC Academic Honor Roll or SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll as the team posted a 3.14 GPA for the spring semester which was a program best too.