CARROLLTON, Ga. - Eastern Georgia is where the 2018 baseball season will begin for the West Georgia Wolves, as head coach Skip Fite begins his ninth season at the helm of the program against his former team, the Augusta Jaguars. Today, uwgsports.com begins a preview that looks at a position-by-position breakdown of the season, beginning with this year's pitchers.
"Pitching is how you live or die in the Division II baseball world," said head coach Skip Fite. "Our battery with the pitchers and catchers experienced a lot of injury a year ago and that had a true impact on how we finished in the league and the region."
Coming off of a run to the South Region semifinals in 2016, the Wolves' team ERA jumped from 4.02 in that season to 5.67 last year. West Georgia ended the year at 17-30 and 8-24 in Gulf South Conference play, missing out on the conference tournament at the end of the season.
Junior Greyson McLeod was a major impact player for Fite early in the 2017 season, allowing a run on three hits with six strikeouts in his UWG debut against Augusta last spring. He started eight games for the Wolves, going 2-3 with a 5.26 ERA before being sidelined with a season-ending injury. McLeod has recovered and will likely be the opening day starter for the Wolves against the Jaguars this weekend.
Another returner will see the hill for the Wolves this weekend, as sophomore Ryan Parker returns for his second season in the fold. Parker led all starters with a 3.79 ERA as a freshman in 2017, tossng 57 innings in nine starts and sporting a 2-2 record. Parker had one complete game and had a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio, fanning 35 batters and walking just 13. He also led the team in opponent batting average, as teams hit just .263 against Parker last year.
The third likely starter this weekend for the Wolves is newcomer Andres Fernandez, a native Floridian who transferred to UWG from Indian River State College this year. Two years ago, he played at Monroe College, going 7-3 with a 2.27 ERA in 63 innings pitched, striking out 53 batters.
Out of the bullpen, Fite will likely use several pitchers, led by senior southpaw Dalton Reagin, who was second on the team in appearances last season with 17. He had a 4.67 ERA and led the team in strikeouts with 43 in 44 innings pitched. Sophomore Tyler Garner also had a solid season last year, going 2-2 in 28 innings pitched, striking out 15 batters with a 4.13 ERA. Another sophomore, CJ Fehribach returns and will likely be used in a short relief situation. He was 2-2 last year with 21 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched.
Newcomers Out of the Bullpen
Wes Bucher came out of the bullpen last year for Southern Union in addition to starting six games and had 48 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched. He and sophomore Jordan Schmits will add to the bullpen this season from the right side, as both are transfers, with Schmits coming from Division I South Alabama after a redshirt year in 2017. Another Southern Union transfer, Connor Stephensen will also see time as a short reliever. He tossed 17.1 innings last season, striking out 16 batters.
The Wolves open on Friday at 3 p.m. in Augusta with a single game, then West Georgia and the Jaguars will go for a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. On Wednesday, uwgsports.com will look at the 2018 infielders.