gmc prep baseball preview

Justin Alford takes a grounder at shortstop during a GMC Prep preseason practice. Alford is one of only two seniors for the Diamond ‘Dogs this season along with CF/P Ryan Barsby. Both have been mainstays in the GMC lineup throughout their varsity careers and will look to lead the squad on the field in 2020.

GMC Prep baseball has enjoyed winning seasons these last two years under head coach Rusty Courson, but the Diamond ‘Dogs are hoping for a little bit more in 2020.

The pieces could be in place for such a result too. Fewer first-year starters, more viable arms and multiple players with plenty of varsity at-bats under their belts has the team’s third-year head coach excited for this year’s prospects. And that’s despite the fact that the team lost its best bat and arm to graduation. 

Jacob Marshall, a 2019 senior, posted a 7-2 pitching record along with a sub-3.00 ERA last season while also hitting for a better than .400 average. Taking his place atop the pitching rotation in 2020 is senior Justin Alford who was the team’s No. 2 a season ago. Alford recently signed to continue his baseball career at Covenant College, a Division III school located in north Georgia. He hit over .300 as a junior and tied for second on the team in RBIs. Following him on the mound is fellow senior, lefty Ryan Barsby. The difference between 2020 and other recent GMC Prep baseball seasons is that the stable of pitchers doesn’t stop there, so Courson’s top arms should not have to be asked to relieve one another. That stouter bullpen was built thanks to last year’s junior varsity program.

“My two aces are definitely going to be Ryan and Justin, but I've got seven other arms that I can throw who can give them relief,” Courson said. “The kids are throwing strikes, and that’s all you can ask for right now.”

Big things are of course expected out of Alford and Barsby at the plate as well this season. The lefty Barsby, who plays in centerfield when not pitching, continues to hold down the top spot in the order as he’ll look to work the count and allow teammates to scout opposing pitching. Beyond that, expectations are high for the junior trio of Mason Seymour, Cody Beckham and Carson Knowles. They’ve all had a plethora of playing time as varsity baseball players under Courson since they began starting as freshmen.

“They should be playing at a senior status because traditionally you would start in 10th grade, so this is their senior year to me,” the head coach said.

The Bulldogs finished fifth in Region 7-A last season and were ultimately knocked out in the first round of the Class A-Public playoffs after taking Jenkins County the three-game distance. Not much has changed in the region landscape since last season. The region is subdivided due to its large size and Courson expects his own side to come down to his team and Aquinas out of Augusta. Tattnall reigns supreme atop the other sub-region, and that’s likely the team GMC will have to take down if it wants a region title. So how does the team get there?

“Pitching is definitely going to be a strength, but I also like the amount of at-bats we’ve gotten so far,” Courson said. “A lot of these kids have played together a long time. They’ve paid their dues these last two years, so I look for that to help carry us a lot.”

As far as what he needs to see a little more of from his team as the season ramps up, the third-year head coach is looking for more of an edge.

“I’m looking for that competitive fire to come into them. Right now the kids get along so well, you don’t know how their going to react when we get into that first game where our backs are against the wall. They’re great kids, but I just want to see what kind of fire we get when we play those first three games — if we do hit adversity, how are we going to react to it.” 

The Bulldogs dropped their 2020 opener to Mount de Sales 7-1 on Monday. They will look to get into the win column Thursday when they host neighboring Wilkinson County. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on GMC’s Craig Field.

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