Georgia State’s baseball team has shown early this season that it can compete with anybody.
Despite being only 6-6 after their first 12 games, the Panthers have gone 2-2 this season against Southeastern Conference (SEC) opponents with wins coming on the road over the Georgia Bulldogs by a score of 3-2 and the Ole Miss Rebels winning 6-4. Ole Miss is currently ranked seventeenth in the country.
The SEC is widely regarded as the best conference in college baseball with 11 of its teams being ranked in the Top 50 best teams in the country. Therefore, the Panthers’ ability to compete with those high-caliber teams proves the promise they possess.
Senior outfielder Chris Triplett feels that the team felt no extra pressure because they were playing an SEC opponent.
“We didn’t really think about it as the SEC. We just thought about it as just another team to play,” Triplett said. “We didn’t make it feel like they’re superior to us.”
Senior outfielder Chase Raffield feels that even though there is no added pressure, the team is motivated to show they deserve a spot among the top teams.
“It’s the Southeastern Conference, best of the best. That’s where everyone wants to play because there’s always great competition,” Raffield said.
“You really want to beat them just to say we’re just as good, and we can play with these guys, and we came out on top.”
The early season competition has acted as a good warm up for the Sun Belt Conference, which is shaping up to be formidable in its own right.
The Sun Belt’s Louisiana-Lafayette is the only team in the conference to be ranked. The Ragin’ Cajuns sit at No. 15 with a 10-2 record.
Additionally, the Sun Belt as a whole is 8-8 against the SEC this season. Louisiana- Lafayette is 3-1 this season against SEC opponents with wins coming against LSU, who was ranked then No. 1 in the country, and two out of three against Alabama.
The other victory the Sun Belt has against the SEC was Western Kentucky, who defeated Vanderbilt 3-2 in a one game series.
The success of the conference hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Panthers. The completion level of the Sun Belt does not worry the Panthers, though; it excites them.
“It’s exciting to know we’re going to be playing against some good teams, and being a competitor, playing somebody with a high level of competition is always fun to do,” Raffield said.
Senior infielder Nic Wilson echoed Raffield’s enthusiasm for the Sun Belt’s completion level.
“Seeing other teams in your conference going out and beating other nationally ranked teams, that lets you know this is where you need to be,” Wilson said.
“You don’t come to college to play against lesser opponents,” Wilson added. “You want to play against the best, and, ultimately, you want to advance your career to playing against the best in the world. This is what we want.”
The Panthers’ non-conference schedule is coming to an end. They have clashed with the mighty titans of the SEC and now are preparing to slay the dark horse that is the Sun Belt Conference. The Panthers make their Sun Belt debut March 14 against Western Kentucky at the Georgia State University Baseball Complex at 6 p.m.