ATHENS — Scott Stricklin wasn’t fired Thursday. That’s not something to that will send someone into dancing a jig, but Georgia’s fourth-year baseball coach was genuinely feeling good about things when interviewed after a long day of player meetings.
“I’m grateful for the support,” said Stricklin, who is 104-119-1 overall and 43-75-1 in the SEC in four seasons as the Bulldogs’ skipper. “I’m grateful for the confidence that Greg McGarity and the administration has shown in me. You know, we were given six years to turn this program around. It’s taken time, there’s no question about it. But we feel confident that the foundation is finally set.”
Stricklin said he had a phone conversation with McGarity Wednesday night after the Bulldogs returned from their trip to Hoover and the SEC Tournament. Georgia, the 12th seed, was ousted in the first round by Mississippi State, 3-0, to finish the season 25-32. The Bulldogs haven’t had a winning record nor an NCAA regional bid during Stricklin’s tenure.
However, with six freshmen among the regular starters, Georgia took won each of the last three SEC series it played, including three-game sets against league leaders Mississippi State and Kentucky.
Here’s what Stricklin had to say at the end of the day Thursday after spending the entire day individual player meetings.
Q: So you were told you’re not fired?
A: “Yeah, I’m still going to be the head baseball coach at Georgia for next season.”
Q: Did this news come from a meeting with McGarity?
A: “I haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk to him in person but we had a phone conversation yesterday. I appreciate his support and the confidence that he has in me to keep this thing going in the right direction. The way we finished is where we think we’re going. We finished the season strong. Our young team played very well and I think our administration saw that. Our young team started to show how good they could be and I think the future is very bright.”
Q: Is it true that you have dismissed pitching coach Fred Corral?
A: Coach Corrall will not be returning next year. I appreciate what he’s done for the last four years, but we just made the decision that we need to move in another direction.
Q: Will there be any other staff changes?
A: “No, that’s the only changes. The volunteer coach position is always in flux, but that’s it.”
Q: Are you being offered a contract extension?
Q: Why is it you believe you will still be able to execute a turnaround?
A: “The thing about our team this year was how young and how talented we were. Next year we’re going to be young, talented and experienced. We’re still going to be relatively young, but six freshmen had 100-plus at-bats. That experience level is going to be unbelievable for these guys moving forward. We’re going to have a lot of experience with guys that are talented but are not longer freshmen and sophomores. They’ll be sophomore and juniors and should have a lot more confidence and believe in themselves. You can’t teach experience and we were able to get those guys out there and get them a lot of experience and that’s going to pay off in the future.
Q: What kind of effect do you think the major league baseball draft will have on your roster?
A: “You don’t know. We’ve certainly got some juniors that have a chance to go in the draft. You’ve got Keegan McGovern, you’ve got Chase Adkins, those two guys are juniors that have a chance to go.We’ve also got Blake Cairns and Ryan Avidano as a draft eligible redshirt sophomore . So that’s four guys that could get their name called. The draft is the most unpredictable thing in sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Juniors in college baseball normally get a signing bonus to encourage them to leave school early. Seniors that get drafted basically get a plane ticket and go. So the majority of juniors that get drafted do sign.”
Q: Will you try to persuade juniors to stay?
A: “We had our player meetings today. We talked about that possibility. All those guys love Georgia. They all love the direction this program is going. But they all want to play pro ball, too. So we’ll just have to wait to see what happens June 12-14 with the draft. We also have to contend with our incoming recruits. We have nine guys that are signed to come in as freshmen last year and the draft is a possibility for several of those guys, too. So we just have to sit back and see what happens.
Q: Last year’s class was ranked No. 3 in the country. The one currently coming in is in the Top 20. Can you keep it together?
A: “The freshman class that’s in here has established themselves. They’re talented and they’re going to mature next year and now the foundation is set. And now we can start to stack classes. Any coach will tell you once you get a chance to stack recruiting classes on top of each other, that’s when you can really start to see improvement in a program. We feel like this next year we’ll have that opportunity with the freshmen, the sophomores and the juniors, We feel really good about the talent level on the roster moving forward.”