Baseball set for third season in Eller era
GC baseball prepares for its third season under head coach Jason Eller and looks to build on the 2018 season in which the team won the Peach Belt Conference and PBC Conference championship.
The team has captured a PBC Tournament Championship two years in a row and finished Top 10 in the Division II Final Polls for the first time since 2010.
“We’ve used that underdog thing for a while, and now we’re probably one of the hunted, so I’m going to enjoy that to be the defending Peach Belt Champs and to be able to see if we can back it up,” Eller said. “It’s an exciting challenge. It’s something that we certainly wanted to do, and now it’s here, so we’re looking forward to trying to show up every weekend and play a high level of baseball.”
Offensively, the Bobcats led NCAA Division II teams with a .360 team average in 2018, topping their DII-leading mark of .358 in 2017.
“Offensively, it’s going to be tough to match what we did last year, but we’re always trying to just score seven-plus runs,” said senior Wesley Wommack. “That’s the number that coach Eller puts in our minds.”
Eller said he is trying to have his team continue the approach he has preached over his two-plus years here, learning to put pressure on opposing defenses and be tough two-strike hitters.
“We’re trying not to change a whole lot,” Eller said. “We’re trying just to change the names and the faces but keep the approach and results the same.”
Wommack, senior Garrett Green and junior third baseman Cal Gentry are three starters returning to the lineup in 2019. Wommack won PBC Tournament MVP honors and hit .390 on the season.
Green broke out with a .375 average and 78 hits, good for ninth in both categories in the PBC. Gentry hit .300 with 20 extra-base hits in 2018 and is just a year removed from hitting .441 as a freshman.
“The best part about hitting in this lineup to me is all the people around you,” Green said. “With Wommack, Gentry, a lot of the newcomers we’re going to have this year, it’s a good feeling knowing your teammates are going to pick you up if you can’t get the job done, and it seems like there’s always people on base.”
Eller mentioned first baseman KC Brown and utility player Will Hudgins as two transfer students to watch for offensively. Brown transferred in from South Georgia State College while Hudgins came from Georgia Southern University.
The Bobcats also featured the top defense in DII baseball in 2018. They boasted the highest fielding percentage (.981) and the fewest errors (37). The .981 mark was good for fourth best in DII baseball history. This season, Eller said he wants to implement more defensive shifts.
“When you want to field at a .981 clip, that just shows that they were in position to make plays,” Eller said. “And so when you’ve got really good players, you’ve got to put them in good positions so they can perform.”.
In Fall 2018, Eller said improving the pitching was a point of emphasis coming into 2019. He said the staff already made strides last fall.
“We’ve been excited about the amount of strikes that we’re throwing,” Eller said. “We’re rolling around a 65 percent clip, that’s nice. We’re in shape, we’re ready to go and we have a lot of depth.”
Bradly Cammack, named a Southeast Region Preseason All-American, headlines a list of notable returners, including Logan Howard, Harrison Veldsma, Colin LoCurto and Perry Keith.
“He’s never scared,” Eller said of Cammack. “He’s got a lot of guts and a lot of confidence because he’s pitched in a lot of different levels and had success. I think what makes Cammack special is just what’s going on inside his heart and who he is more so than his stuff.”
Cammack, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound righty, went 13-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 85 innings pitched in 2018.
“I really want to improve on being more efficient with pitch counts and getting out of innings,” Cammack said. “Last year, I’d throw 20-plus pitches when I didn’t need to. I would just burn pitches, and I feel like this year, I’m going to do a lot better job of attacking hitters.”
Eller also brought in former Division I players Connor Darling and Bryce Bowen to the program. The right-handed throwing Darling, a junior, transferred from the University of Tennessee. Bowen is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound lefty who transferred from Clemson University.
Overall, the program brought in 17 players, six transfers and 11 freshmen to bolster the roster.
The Bobcats begin their journey back to the Peach Belt Conference on Feb. 1 against Paine University at 5 p.m. at John Kurtz Field.
“[I’m looking forward to] getting out here at John Kurtz field and watching Kathy Kurtz throw out the first pitch for the third year in a row,” Eller said. “We’ve been able to have back-to-back really good seasons with Ms. Kurtz throwing out the first pitch, and she’s the heart and soul of this program. She’s the team mom, so when she puts that 31 jersey on and the look on her face is priceless.”