“I’m excited about the direction of the program,” Eller said. “This season is going to be a challenge for us. We’re going to take it one day at a time and see if we can make it to Aiken.”
For the Jaguars to make it to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament in Aiken, they will need to better a 10-38 record in 2013, including 3-25 in the conference.
Georgia Regents opens with a weekend series in a doubleheader against Carson-Newman starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Eller was hired last summer as the new baseball coach, earning his first head coaching job after 11 years on Georgia’s staff, including the past seven as a full-time assistant under coach David Perno. Eller was named Georgia’s pitching coach in 2012 and led the Bulldogs’ recruiting efforts for six years.
And his recruiting connections in the state are already reaping benefits – Georgia Regents recently announced a 2015 class that features one of the top prep catchers in the state in McEachern’s Brent Alford.
But before the Jaguars can put Eller’s first full class into play, they will work to improve.
“The biggest thing I want from them is to be excited to come to practice and excited about playing baseball,” Eller said. “Practice can get mundane... but the guys who can do the fundamental things the best are usually the team that’s going to win.”
Greenbrier product Hunter Boose will move from shortstop to third base in his sophomore season. Boose hit .291 and led the Jaguars with 20 doubles as a starting freshman last season, and he said improving upon his walk and strikeout numbers is key for him in his second year.
“My swing feels a lot better than last year,” he said. “I’m seeing the ball a lot better out of our pitchers’ hands. Hopefully, I can just carry that into the season.”
Senior Kevin Dodson won the starting shortstop job in the fall, but a recent injury has him doubtful for this weekend’s games. Eller said the team’s leading hitter last year, Jeff Rice, will play center field. The senior hit .293 with four home runs last season.
The pitching staff is led by senior left-hander Kip Custer, who had a 4.78 ERA in 81 innings last year. Custer is the only returning arm with considerable starting experience for the Jaguars.
“It’s nice to have a veteran in Kip Custer, who has logged a bunch of innings, thrown a lot of games,” Eller said. “He’s probably the cornerstone of our staff.”
Senior right-hander Clint Echols will contribute in different ways for the Jaguars staff. He recorded a 3.61 ERA in 52 innings last season and is among the harder throwers on the team.
The future looks bright for the Jaguars, but a new coaching staff is also giving the current team new direction. Staying the course is key.
“I’ve been very pleased with their energy, and I think they’re starting to smell opening day,” Eller said.