The weather appears to be ready for some college baseball, and thats good news for Georgia College.
The Bobcats open the season Saturday at home with a doubleheader against King, a team that finished third in Conference Carolinas a year ago.
King is 0-3, starting the season with three losses at Newberry by a 20-7 margin. The Tornado finished 31-20 last season.
The pregame will be a little more than routine.
The Bobcats will get their conference tournament championship rings before president Steve Dorman throws out the first pitch. Georgia College won its first Peach Belt Conference tournament title last season. Its also staff appreciation day, with school staffers getting a free popcorn or hot chocolate -- first-pitch temperatures will be around 60 degrees -- with ID.
Those fans will take in the first game of a season that has pretty normal Georgia College expectations, following the tournament championship, the NCAA trip and a final ranking of 21 by Collegiate Baseball.
Head coach Tom Carty was named the Georgia Dugout Clubs Division II coach of the year for the 36-19 season in 2013, which improved his career mark with the Bobcats to 212-117.
The Bobcats are picked for fourth in the always-tough Peach Belt.
Collegebaseballineup.com has the Bobcats 25th in the preseason, seven spots better than Collegiate Baseball.
Senior shortstop Daniel Bick and sophomore outfielder Jake Sandlin are first-team preseason all-conference picks, Bick following up a first-team selection and All-Southeast Region honors last year. Bick hit .363 and was second in the conference with 72 runs. Sandlin was a second-team all-conference choice last spring after batting .311 with nine homers and 45 RBI.
Bick and Sandlin are among a group of experienced returnees, led by Clay Ardeeser. The junior first baseman led Georgia College with a .369 average last year and shared the home run lead with Sandlin and then-senior Cody Maas. Outfielder Ryan Sabalaskey batted .362 and was second behind Bick (17-21) in steals with 14 in 18 attempts before getting hurt after 37 starts.
Taylor Hinshaw saw time at designated hitter, while also playing in the outfield and hit .309 with 45 RBI and 11 doubles. Steve Hazel started 34 times at catcher and hit .382 with six homers and 38 RBI. Rob Hogenkamp took over at second and finished with a .339 average and six steals.
The Bobcats return seven players who started at least 34 games. Justin Blue heads the returning pitching staff. Blue was 8-4 with a 3.42 ERA and .273 opponents average, while John Clark was 6-1 with a 4.94 ERA. Jordan Modine pitched in 15 games and adds experience.
Jordan Brooks, a sophomore from Tattnall Square, hadtwo saves and returns after going 2-3 with a 4.19 ERA and the fifth-most innings.
There are three Middle Georgians in addition to Brooks, on the roster: pitcher Stewart Rich, Mount de Sales; catcher Joe Scott, Northside; and pitcher Brandon Spivey, Jones County.
Georgia College opens the season with a 10-game homestand that includes the conference-opening series against Flagler. Top-ranked Tampa is in town next weekend, and then No. 23 UNC Pembroke on March 1 and 2.