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GSW baseball team opens 2012 season today

The ace of GSW’s pitching staff this season will be returning senior Trent Franzago, who posted a 2.70 ERA last season for the ‘Canes.

The ace of GSW’s pitching staff this season will be returning senior Trent Franzago, who posted a 2.70 ERA last season for the ‘Canes.

AMERICUS — Bryan McLain didn’t hesitate when asked about the outlook for the Georgia Southwestern baseball team’s 2012 season.

“We have high expectations, and they start (today) against Barry University, which is ranked No. 6 in one poll and I think eighth or ninth in another,” the coach said. “We’re going to jump right off into it.”

McLain returns for his eighth year after leading the Hurricanes to their second consecutive season with at least 25 wins, posting a mark of 27-21 in 2011.

GSW will open today with a doubleheader at noon at home in a tough early matchup as part of the nonconference portion of the schedule.

GSW softball opens today on road

AMERICUS — The 2012 Georgia Southwestern softball team will be looking to recapture its magic that earned the Lady Hurricanes their first ever PBC Tournament appearance in 2009.

GSW’s quest begins today at Georgia College and State in a season-opening tournament against Catawba and Queen’s (N.C.).

Senior Jessica Martin of Woodstock will be depended on to be the ace, while fellow seniors Gabby Buck and Katie Wooten were key position players on the last team to make the PBC tourney. The duo is first and second among active players in home runs and RBI. Buck and Wooten have hit a combined 15 home runs and 92 RBI in their GSW careers.

The Lady ‘Canes roster includes six seniors, three returners and eight newcomers. The eight fresh faces are comprised of four junior college transfers, including former Lee County star and Herald Player of the Year Brittny Dennison (Darton College).

“We did lose some key guys, but only two of them were starters and we’ve got a lot of good ones coming back,” McLain said. “We’re real excited about this season.”

The Hurricanes welcome six returning starters in the field, along with seven pitchers. There are 16 upperclassmen on the roster, including seven seniors and nine juniors.

GSW returns its top two hitters from 2011 in All-Peach Belt Conference selection, junior Michel Coffey (.360, 48 starts, only 17 strikeouts) and junior John Duran (.330, 43 runs scored). In addition, sophomore All-PBC selection Corey Benson (.298, .440 slugging percentage) and senior Andrew Archer (.300, 35 RBIs) are back in 2012. Senior second baseman Beau Parker of Bainbridge looks to recapture some of his magic from 2010 when he was an All-PBC Tournament selection and hit .446. GSW finished last spring eighth out of the 12-team Peach Belt Conference with a collective batting average of .291.

On paper, pitching took the greatest hit for GSW heading into the spring as last year's No. 2 starter Zach Whitman (4-5, 4.22 ERA, 70.1 IP) along with No. 3 starter and former Southland star Jody Sellars (2-5, 5.80 ERA) must be replaced off a squad that ranked ninth in the PBC with a 4.12 ERA.

But there is good news on the pitching front: GSW is deep when it comes to solid arms.

“I told my pitching coach the other day I’m real pleased with the arms we have this season,” McLain said. “Trent (Franzago) will be our No. 1 guy — he’s earned that right and could be a No. 1 for any team in our league — and another key component will be (former Lee County star) Gray Carden. Grey’s stuff is really good.”

Seniors Franzago (2.70 ERA, .210 opponent's batting average) and Carden (2.56 ERA, 25 app., .194 opp. avg.) return, as well as senior and former Darton star Matt Weaver (2-0, 3.16 ERA, eight appearances) and sophomore Hunter Thompson (3.72 ERA, eight appearances). McLain also likes another former Lee County star, Matt Suggs, to make an immediate impact.

“He’s in competition right now to be a weekend guy,” he said of Suggs. “He’s really shown me a lot in spring practice.

There are 11 new faces on the 'Canes roster this year — a group that includes one Division I transfer, two Division II transfers, two JUCO players and six freshmen.