In his 31st year as a coach, Greg Frady gets just as excited for each opening day as he did the first season.
His Panthers are hosting Bradley at 5 p.m. Friday, a chance to start the season with a win for the fifth consecutive year.
Georgia State is what many could consider the perfect blend of old and new. It returns 19 players (12 seniors) and welcomes eight freshmen.
Senior shortstop Justin Jones is wrapping up his career. With a .288 career average along with 77 RBIs, he has a chance to go down as the best player in school history.
“There are no words to describe what he’s meant to this program,” Frady said. “He’s like an on-field coach. He’s a professional prospect. I truly love that kid. I truly love having him here.”
GSU’s success is tied to the lineup’s production. Frady called the group “calm” and praised their resilience. He’s happy with its balance and the ability that provides in playing right-or-left matchups.
It’s a mostly older group that was enhanced by a pair of transfers and a standout freshman.
Freshman Ryan Glass, a big right-handed power hitter who played at Woodward Academy, will start as the designated hitter. The coaching staff came away extremely impressed with Glass, especially in how he’s already proved consistency.
“He’s a very good listener,” Frady said. “He knows how to make adjustments and implement what he learns quickly. And he keeps his confidence in a good place.”
Frady said he “absolutely” believes Glass could be a freshman All-American.
The Panthers also will benefit from two transfer outfielders who are expected to add power to the lineup, Jake Corso and Enrique Ferrer. Transfer Jake Rogers will step in as the No. 2 starter behind Hunter Gaddis.
GSU has possibly the hardest schedule in school history. It faces Minnesota, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss.
“Some days I think I did a great job with the schedule, and others I really wonder,” Frady said with a laugh. “It’s gonna come down to our team. How well do we play baseball on that day? Our in-state rivals, all those teams are good. We have a good team. It’s not about being good, it’s about playing good that day.”
The Panthers open the season with the Atlanta Challenge this weekend, facing Connecticut and Minnesota after Bradley.