Power surge: Georgia baseball has potential to hit more home runs in 2017
Seeing baseballs leave the yard could be a familiar site for the Georgia baseball team when the season begins Feb. 17. Update; During opening weekend, the Bulldogs followed through and hit six home runs over three games.
This could be seen when freshman shortstop Cam Shepherd steps up to the plate. In batting practice on Feb. 2, Shepherd smoked a batting practice fastball over the fence effortlessly.
That’s a good sign for the Bulldogs since hitting home runs was a dimension that the Bulldogs were lacking in last season. They finished in 10th place out of 14 Southeastern Conference teams with 41 home runs.
They could move way up that list this year thanks to the addition of freshman like Shepherd and other first-year players according to head coach Scott Stricklin.
“We should [have more power],” Stricklin said. “The ball comes off the bat a little bit easier with some of the swings we’ve got. Some of these freshman, you watch Cam [Shepherd] and Aaron Schunk and Will Campbell, he’s a junior. You hear our BP sounds different than it has before. BP has a certain sound to it. We’ve got some guys that turn your head when they hit.”
Lucky for Stricklin and the Bulldogs, the top two home run leaders for Georgia last season will again be in the lineup this year. Junior outfielder Keegan McGovern and sophomore catcher Michael Curry will surely be looking for more.
McGovern himself is looking for somewhere in the range of a .300 average, 15 home runs and 60 RBI.
“That what I hope,” McGovern said. “I’ve been putting in the work during the fall and over Christmas break. Hopefully I can just keep on working hard and maybe it’ll turn out that way.”
HR leaders for Georgia in 2016 First-year players with most HR’s in 2016
- Michael Curry : 11 HR’s * 1. Will Campbell: 19 HR’s *
- Keegan McGovern: 6 HR’s * 2. Aaron Schunk: 10 HR’s *
- Daniel Nichols: 6 HR’s 3. Tucker Bradley: 9 HR’s *
- Stephen Wrenn: 5 HR’s 4. Tucker Maxwell: 5 HR’s *
- Skyler Weber: 4 HR’s 5. Mason Meadows: 4 HR’s *
* denotes players who are currently on Georgia’s roster
One player who did not make either of the above list is freshman catcher Austin Biggar. Biggar only hit two home runs in his senior year at Parkview High School. In his junior year, Biggar busted out onto the scene with 11 home runs, which led the state of Georgia for that year.
His head coach has noticed just how much power the 19-year old catcher possesses.
“Austin [Biggar] has got what we call donkey power,” Stricklin said. “He’s a really, really strong kid.”
Biggar’s teammates have also picked up on his talents.
“As a hitter, that dude [Biggar] is unbelievable,” Shepherd said. “He’s hit balls farther than I’ve ever seen before in practice. He’s right-handed so he’ll be hitting them way in the parking lot.
Will Campbell is another one of those players for the Bulldogs who might be depositing baseballs in the parking lot on a regular basis.
Campbell recognizes that trading a few more strikeouts for ‘donkey power’ might be worth it at times. But in his eyes, the Bulldogs can hit for both contact and power throughout this season, meaning they can still hit the ball without striking out as much.
“I honestly think we do have both [average and power hitters],” Campbell said. “The pitchers are throwing harder, guys are swinging a little harder. There’s more strikeouts. There’s more home runs. I think that’s just the era of the game right now. They’re trading a little bit more power for contact.”
Seeing more home runs is exactly the kind of contact players and fans alike will want to see this upcoming season.