Pitcher Wayne Wages optimistic about the new season

This season Wayne Wages looks to bring home the Sunbelt Championship with the Panthers. Photos by Dayne Francis | The Signal
This season Wayne Wages looks to bring home the Sunbelt Championship with the Panthers.
Photos by Dayne Francis | The Signal

The Georgia State baseball team will kickoff the 2016 season on Feb. 19 against Western Michigan. The two teams will meetup at the GSU baseball complex at 4 p.m.

Last season, the Panthers finished 30-27 and finished fifth in the Sun Belt conference. The team is looking forward to performing at a higher level this season as they began fall practice in September 2015. The team welcomed back several award winning players such as catcher, Joey Roach and center fielder, Ryan Blanton. The Panthers also welcomed back left-handed pitcher Wayne Wages.

Wages led the Panthers in 26 appearances during the 2015 season. He struck out 31 individuals and finished the season with a 3.77 ERA.

Wages is fully aware of the responsibilities of being a pitcher. Pitchers are known to be the voice of the team. Therefore being the center of the team, while having the game revolve around them.  

“If we’re feeling good and confident then usually the team plays good behind us,” Wages said. “So that’s like our main responsibility and something to strive for, for the staff.”

There is no surprise that the pitchers spend a great deal of time in the bullpen. Wages introduced the atmosphere of the bullpen, in which he finds to be loose.

“Pitchers are another breed as it is in the baseball world. So we’re all down there we’re kinda joking around with each other, just cutting up,” Wages said. “But whenever it’s time, when a new number is called, everyone gets serious. We all lock in and make sure that guy is ready to go.”

During the 2015 Sun Belt Tournament Georgia State defeated division rivals Georgia Southern during the first game of the championships. The Panthers went on to the next round and were defeated by South Alabama. Even though Georgia State fell during the the championships they have maintained a positive mindset and still remember the victory over Georgia Southern.

The first tournament game is one of the most memorable games for Wages.

“We had just come off of a series with them and that game was our first Sun Belt tournament win. So it was a pretty big step for the program,” Wages said.

During the Georgia State-Georgia Southern game Wages pitched 1.1 scoreless, hitless innings and struck out two individuals. Resulting in a 3-2 win for the Panthers.

Looking into the 2016 season various goals have been set for the team. Not only do they hope to give up their fifth place ranking in the Sun Belt conference, but they are striving to win the championship. However, the tournament victories are not the only goal. The team is looking towards doing well throughout the entire season. The main goal is to move forward and progress in the Sun Belt conference. Leading the team are the pitchers, but they put most of their focus on the team as a whole.

“Well it’s really all about the team. If they play well then as the pitcher, I look like I do better because they’re playing well behind me,” Wages said. “I just want to go out there and do my job and watch them do their jobs and hopefully get this thing rolling on another shot to win the championship.”

The Panthers face a difficult schedule this season as they matchup with teams such as Auburn and Perdue. The team will also play against well known in state teams Georgia Tech, Mercer, Kennesaw State and Georgia Southern.

Being aware of the standing rivalry there is no question about who Wages is most excited to play against. The pitcher is looking forward to taking on Georgia Southern in the three game series in Statesboro, GA.

“Being an in state rivalry I think it’s a really good game, really good baseball,” Wages said. “Everyone is ready and everyone is sharp and everyone is eager to go. Just because there is a lot on the line, you know rivalries are the best games.”

This game may be the most anticipated, but Wages knows there will be challenges along the way. As they set out to face opponents at the GSU baseball complex and away, he knows the season stores hardwork and perseverance.  Moreover, never labeling one team as more challenging than the other, but treating them all equally.

“I wouldn’t say any game outweighs the other. I think they’re all equally important,” Wages said. “I’d say, that first game. You want to get that first win under your belt. Nothing really matter until you get that first win, that’s when it all starts rolling. So Feb. 19 is an important game.”

Wages is the Panther’s closing pitcher. As a result he has entered games at stressful periods and felt the pressure on his back. Several games have been in his hands to finish out. Even though Wages is thrusted into the spotlight and depended on by the staff as well as his teammates, he finds a way to turn it into positive energy.

“I think the key to success is to remain loose and trust your abilities,” Wages said. “Just knowing that my coaches trust me and my guys trust me and I have to trust myself.”
The Panthers will continue to prepare for their first game on Feb. 19. Wages along with other pitchers, Alex Hegner and Garrett Ford will continue to lead their teammates and hopefully move up in the Sun Belt rankings.