AMERICUS — Georgia Southwestern was picked last by the Peach Belt coaches in the preseason poll entering the baseball season.
And while it’s a poll really based on the outcome of last season, some of those coaches may want their vote back.
The Hurricanes are off to their best start since joining Division II at 18-8, and they have won three of four conference series in the Peach Belt going 8-4 in those games.
They have received votes two weeks for the national poll, but on Monday, GSW cracked the top 30, being tied with five other teams at No. 30.
“It’s exciting,” said coach Bryan McLain. “It’s rewarding in the fact you see the effort these young men put out day in and day out trying to accomplish the goals they set out for each other and themselves, and it’s good to see them get rewarded for a change.”
Altogether, there are seven teams from the Peach Belt in the poll, including: Columbus State (9th); USC Aiken (10th); North Georgia (12th); Francis Marion (14th); Georgia College (16th); and UNC Pembroke (17th).
GSW had finished last in its first three seasons in the Peach Belt, and expectations have failed to be met. McLain said a lot of the lack of success could be tied in with a lack of confidence.
He said that’s not the case this season.
“These guys are very confident in themselves, and they very well should be,” said McLain. “This is a talented group of young men. They do a lot of good things on the baseball field. It’s not false confidence, if you will. It’s confidence they’ve gotten in preparing themselves and in seeing results on the field.”
While GSW was picked last in the preseason poll, McLain said bringing it up is used in special instances.
“For coaches, you look for an edge you can get
anywhere,” he said. “We haven’t spent a whole lot
of time dwelling on it, but when the right moment comes around,
it’s good to remind them what everybody else thought about
them and use it when it might be appropriate.”
GSW is still in the middle of the pack in the major statistical categories, but are getting more individual performances.
Eight players are batting over .300, and three pitchers have earned run averages less than 3.80.
Newcomer Trent Dooley is sixth in the league with a .396 batting average and 15th in hits at 44, and Byron Haynes is sixth in home runs (8) and 14th in slugging percentage (.606).
Pitcher Jody Sellars has the second-most wins in the conference at five, and reliever Chris Carroll is in the top 10 in saves (3) and appearances (14) while maintaining a 1.25 ERA.
“It’s been a true team effort,” said McLain. “Some of them are just maturing, and some of them are kind of finally figuring things out in terms of how this game goes. It’s fun for me to watch the kids have success based on what most of them have been through the last few years.”
The Hurricanes travel to Brewton Parker on Wednesday and then prepare for a weekend series with Georgia College.
McLain said the ranking has been a reflection of what has happened so far this season, but there’s a lot more work to be done.
“I hope it’s not something we get complacent with and feel like all of a sudden our job’s done,” he said. “There’s a lot of season left and important games left to play, not to mention three very important games coming up this weekend with Georgia College, who’s leading our division. Hopefully it’s a motivator to what might be in the future, and we can run with it.”