New Georgia Bulldogs Baseball Coach Scott Stricklin credits his career success to Georgia Tech Coach Danny Hall. How’s that for a different twist to the Clean, Old Fashion Hate rivalry?
Stricklin arrives “back” in Athens with an impressive resume. The most impressive item on that resume being that he led his alma mater Kent State to the 2012 College World Series becoming the first Mid-American Conference team to get to Omaha in 36 years.
So impressive was his resume that Georgia hired a man who for five seasons was an assistant to Hall at Georgia Tech and played for Hall at Kent State. He was a two-time All-MAC catcher in his playing days and kicked around the minors for five seasons, even spending the summer of 1996 in the Braves organization.
In his 9 seasons as head coach of the Golden Flashes, Stricklin won 10 MAC Titles (five regular season and five tournament), went to five NCAA Regionals, was three times MAC Coach of the Year, posted three 40-win seasons and not since his first season did he ever finish less than 8 games over .500 in the conference. Three times he posted more than 20 league wins, including this past season. Whew! I think you get the picture.
For Georgia fans who “worry” about his ties to Georgia Tech, Stricklin says it’ll be a great rivalry between him and his mentor Danny Hall. He liken it to playing ball against your brother in the backyard and anybody who’s done that knows that those can be the fiercest rivalries.
He’s “back” in Athens…well at least sort of. Stricklin played his high school baseball for the Athens Bulldogs. That’s the Athens, Ohio High School Bulldogs. Georgia Athletics Director Greg McGarity says when they realized this about Stricklin “it seemed as if the stars had aligned” in the Bulldogs coaching search.
It was a coaching search that McGarity says drew overwhelming interest on a national scale. That the coaching search drew national interest isn’t surprising. The Georgia job is considered one of the best in the nation with some of the best high school baseball talent in the nation right in the Bulldogs back yard. Not to mention that it’s already been proven that you can win big at Georgia.
In 12 seasons under previous head coach David Perno, the Bulldogs experienced the greatest success in program history, three times going to the College World Series and in 2008 coming within one win of the national championship. But the program had been slipping ever since that summer five years ago.
Sticklin says his Bulldogs program will be centered on pitching and defense. Says you’ve got to throw strikes and make plays.
What about the Bulldogs offense? Anybody who’s watched the game lately knows that if you’re waiting to win the game on a three-run homer you might be waiting a long time. In fact I feel this was perhaps the greatest downfall of the Georgia program the last couple of seasons…a failure to adapt to the new game.
Stricklin says he wouldn’t call his approach “small ball,” but did say the Bulldogs would do things to put pressure on the opposing defenses. He wants his batters to compete with two strikes and get the opposing pitcher out of the game. Stricklin says that sometimes Georgia might push or drag bunt instead of sacrifice but whatever they do, the idea is to “have a great approach at the plate and execute your job.”
Whether Perno refused to adapt or he didn’t have the players to do it can be debated. But the facts are that while Georgia was fifth in the conference in team batting average, they were 13th in runs scored. The culprits: a team on-base percentage that was 11th, while finishing 13th in walks, 13th in stolen bases and dead last in sac bunts. You might not like playing that way but it beats losing.
Stricklin has met with most of Georgia’s returning players and talked to most of the 2013 signing class that includes Loganville (GA) High School’s Clint Frazier who is expected to me among the first five picks in the MLB Draft and most likely will never be seen on campus (unless it’s just for fun). But to the players that will make up Stricklin’s first team and those in the future, his message is simple: “Get to Omaha. Find a way to get to Omaha.”
Despite Georgia’s 7-20 record in the SEC this past season that message isn’t far-fetched. One of the reasons so many people wanted the job Stricklin now has.