Written by Alex Tostado
The Valdosta State baseball team has a unique challenge ahead of them this season.
The Blazers are relying on their veteran pitching staff due to them returning only one position player from last season.
The baseball team opens its season on Friday at Billy Grant Field against Palm Beach Atlantic as a part of the Comfort Inn Suites Classic.
The Blazers are looking to improve from last season’s record of 27-19, including 14-9 in Gulf South Conference play.
Head coach Greg Guilliams looks to guide this team to victories while having eight new starters at any point. “Every year you are going to have new players but part of the challenge is to get your team to match the philosophy [of the offense],” Guilliams said. “Especially when you have a new team, I don’t think that you ever feel that you are ready. Part of it is just the unknown. Until you start playing games that count, you just don’t know how your team is going to react.”
One of the players that the Blazers lost is Christian Glisson, who was the 2012 GSC player of the year.
“I don’t think you ever replace [Glisson] in just one year; you just don’t do it… But this year’s team is going to be different in ways than last year’s team wasn’t. This year’s team just needs to find its own identity,” Guilliams said.
In order to find that identity early on in the season, Guilliams is looking to his veteran pitching staff that includes six of the seven seniors on the team.
Nick Fogarty, one of the seniors, is a starting pitcher who is looking to bounce back from a broken hand last season. “My confidence is up and my arm is feeling better than it has in a long time,” Fogarty said. “It is going to start off with our starters… We need to lead the way and the bullpen guys need to come out and do their job and the late inning guys are really going to have to be big for us,”.
Jamie McMillan, a transfer from Mercer, is hoping to have an impact on the younger guys and hopes to bring leadership to the team.
“I want to help these young guys stay… focus[ed] on the task at hand, win every pitch, practice hard, a lot of effort and a lot of intensity.”
The Blazers play Lynn University on Saturday and wrap up the weekend against North Georgia on Sunday.
The Blazers do not open up conference play until March 2nd at Alabama-Huntsville.
“Obviously playing at home brings a comfort level rather than going on the road,” Guilliams said. “We have a lot of Florida and South Georgia guys that like the warm weather so hopefully the weather cooperates this weekend.”