With opening day quickly approaching, UWG baseball prepares to begin the 2020 season. Jeff Smith is taking over the program after nine years as an assistant coach under Skip Fite.
With nearly a decade in the program, Smith looks to take the team to the next level. With seniors making up 15 players of the 32 man roster, the team is adjusting to the new leadership.
“I think we’ve made some strides. The thing is, I knew all of the players so it was an easy adjustment for me,” Smith said. “Now implementing the things that I want to do has been an adjustment for them as well. It’s done well.”
Smith says the mindset for the program is to play more games and compete at a higher level.
“We want to get to a regional. That’s our goal every year,” Smith said. “We feel like if we can finish as one of the top three programs in the conference, which we should be every year, then we will be in a regional every year.”
Smith wants to see the team consistently competing at a regional level, with a chance to go beyond. He says that recruiting will play a major part in the years to come. In the fall, he hired Bryan Niedbalski to the assistant coaching position.
“What I was looking for was a person that was a very good recruiter, because I think recruiting is the biggest thing that we have to do at the college level. I needed someone that could relate with our players and with our recruits,” Smith said. “What we are trying to do, and even prior to me taking over and before I got here, the baseball program had fallen off a little bit. We had, under Coach Fite and myself, gotten the program back to a respectable level, a level that has competed at times at a national level.”
When talking about the current team, Smith says experience will be one of their main strengths this season.
“We have 15 seniors, nine that are on the pitching staff,” Smith says. “We need for those guys to play to the level they are capable of and if we do that and we stay healthy we should do fine. What I’m wanting to do with our recruiting process and the things I’ve told Bryan we need to do is bring in a talent level that can be consistent at a high level.”
Last season the baseball team ended the year with a 28-24 record after a run to the GSC semifinals.
“I think we had a good year. We ran out of gas with a few injuries on the pitching mound at the conference tournament,” said Smith. “We got off to a slow start. I would like to get off to a quick start. Play well and get hot. This team here, the confidence level of getting off to a quick start, is going to be huge for them.”
Smith says he is excited to get the season started and lead the group of guys that are already here.
“They do a lot of things that people don’t see off the field. They work hard,” Smith said. “The big thing is, I would just like to see them be successful. This year we’ll be able to go play in a regional and compete for the opportunity to go further. With as many seniors as we have, that would just be a great way to end their college careers here.”