Coming off a season that saw various records broken and the team advance further than any other in program history, this year’s GGC baseball team aims to build upon that foundation of talent and character as they prepare for their opening weekend series against defending NAIA National Champion Southeastern Fire on Feb. 1 at 3 p.m.
Last year’s deep postseason run ended in the NAIA World Series with a semifinal loss to Freed-Hardeman. Not lost in the overall season’s success, or the final defeat, were the obvious benefits of an intentional shift toward recruiting high-character guys that was initiated by the coaches before last season.
“As coaches, we have a large influence on the kids within the program,” Head Coach Brad Stromdahl said. “I think it’s our job as coaches to not just coach on the field, but also coach them as men from our life experiences.”
Redshirt sophomore second baseman Cam Coursey, who finished last season second in national batting average hitting a whopping .485 and begins this season listed as a preseason All-American, emphasized the importance of team chemistry.
“Last year everybody clicked, everyone gelled from the beginning,” Coursey said. “Everybody top to bottom pulled the rope, not just older guys. This year it feels like more of the same with a lot of the core guys returning. All the new people don’t really feel like new people. They feel more like puzzle pieces.”
Ace of the pitching staff Greg Loukinen, who also looks to build upon his stellar 2018 campaign, mentioned that the coaches always let them know there is something they can get better at.
“Whether that thing is holding runners on better or being a better teammate and having more energy picking guys up in the dugout, we can always improve,” Loukinen said.
The returners are not the only ones who recognize the importance of team chemistry and the coaches push toward men of character. The transfers and freshman signed out of high school have picked up on it as well.
Brent Burgess, a senior transfer from Middle Georgia State, whom many would consider a rival of GGC, mentioned that this doesn’t feel like a new team to him.
“We just already have that team chemistry. Everybody is cool with everybody,” Burgess said. “The friendships are strong, and you might not think it’s true, but when friendships are strong, it really carries over into the way the team plays and acts. Because of that, I think we are going to have a really great year.”
“They are really pushing us to be a good person on and off the field, and that will build a great team,” freshman infielder Ali Lapread said.
Pedro Garcia, a big, right-handed pitcher who transferred from Venezuela over Christmas break, looks to make an immediate impact on the pitching staff and team.
“I’m glad to be around a lot of humble people here,” Garcia said in response to questions about his impressions so far. “I like the coaching staff and how they are trying to teach you to do better in life besides baseball. They are very competitive coaches, but after you finish school, they want you to be what you need to be to have a better future.”
What They’re Saying
“I’m looking forward to Feb. 27, Middle Georgia State. You know, my twin brother is over there. I know a lot of them from playing over there. It will really be like a homecoming for me. I want to beat them just because I had some issues over there last year, so be it… I just can’t wait to play them. Really looking forward to it.” − Brent Burgess
“I think everybody in this athletic department is pretty anxious for us to play Southeastern on February 1st here. After the new Perfect Game rankings, with us being #1 and them being #3, given they are the defending National Champions, I think they’re going to take it personally, so we have a lot to prove in that first series.” − Greg Loukinen