Georgia State baseball struggled in 2019, going 15-41 and winning just six of 30 Sun Belt Conference games.
First-year coach Brad Stromdahl recognizes the uphill battle facing his young team, but remains determined to get Georgia State back to the conference tournament.
The Panthers begin their season at 4 p.m. Friday, hosting Cincinnati in the first game of the Atlanta Challenge. Here are three things to know about the Panthers before the season starts:
New coaching staff
Georgia State replaced its entire coaching staff during the offseason, after a disappointing 2019 campaign under long-time coach Greg Frady. Before joining the Panthers, Stromdahl started the Georgia Gwinnett College baseball team from scratch in 2013 and led them to a 328-104 record in his seven seasons at the helm. Joining Stromdahl is a new assistant group, including pitching coach Matt Taylor, and assistant coaches Daniel Furuto and Dalton Martinez. Although Stromdahl saw his new team progress during the fall, he understands that the coaches still have plenty of work to do.
“What we had to build early in the fall was trust. The players had to trust who (the coaches) were, and we had to trust who they were,” Stromdahl said. “The transition has been nothing but seamless from our end. We just have to start playing to start to make the adjustments and see where we can go.”
Youth on the mound
The Panthers list 12 underclassmen pitchers on their 2020 roster, constituting 75 percent of their staff. Of the four upperclassmen, two players are transfers, leaving Stromdahl to rely on the youngsters to lead on the mound. The Panthers plan to use sophomores Seth Clark and Ryan Watson in important roles, either as starters or as the team’s closer. Amidst the youth and inexperience, Stromdahl pointed to senior Tyler Koch as a vocal leader for the rest of his staff. Koch is the only player on the roster who is in his fourth year at Georgia State.
Maximizing the offense
Georgia State lost three of their four best bats from 2019, including two everyday outfielders. As a result, Stromdahl plans to build his line-up by focusing on the offense while slightly sacrificing defense. For the Panthers, that likely means using players in irregular defensive positions to get their bats in the line-up. Stromdahl named senior Dalton Davies as an example, potentially moving the 2019 catcher to the outfield to maximize the team’s offense.
“Ultimately, we have to make a decision as a coaching staff. We may sacrifice defense slightly for some offense,” Stromdahl said. “We have a bunch of guys that play a number of different positions, so we’re going to see where those guys fit best with this team. Then we’ll be able to make those decisions down the line when we have 30 or 40 at bats.”
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