The Georgia State baseball team, also known as “The Bus Lot Bombers,” have come out of the gates firing on all cylinders to start the 2023 season. There were plenty of question marks up and down this opening day lineup after an offseason that saw key veterans depart from the program. If the Panthers can continue this type of production throughout the season, this will be the best team in Georgia State history by a long shot.
With the emergence of star players like Max Ryerson, JoJo Jackson and Dylan Strickland, this version of the Panthers is slated to be not only one of the best teams in the Sun Belt conference but a top team in the country. They showed they had the talent to hang with the nation’s top teams last season, beating clubs like Clemson handily and hanging in with the inner-city rival Georgia Tech.
Georgia State’s Dylan Strickland is the fourth different Panther to be named national player of the week over the past two years, joining Max Ryerson (3x), Cameron Jones and Luke Boynton. This nod from the collegiate newspaper comes after he hit .500 in four games with five homers and 10 RBIs. Strickland has hit nine home runs in just 21 games played this season. This is an apparent trend for these “Bus Lot Bombers.” The team has hit a whopping 45 home runs total to begin the season and has at least eight players hitting above .300.
This new-look Panthers lineup has a fantastic mixture of power bats and players who grind away at-bats which drives up the pitch count. This forces opposing teams to dip into the bullpen much earlier than they would like.
Another key cog to this lineup is Max Ryerson, who enjoyed a breakout season in which he slashed for .335/.414/.705 and hit 22 home runs, a program record. “Max is one of the best pure hitters I have ever played with,” said teammate Griffin Cheney. “The team is in great hands with him returning for his senior season. I have no doubt he will pick up right where he left off.”
This season, he has started right where he left off; in the first 21 games of the season, he is slashing .394/.534/.606 with four home runs and 13 RBIs. The calling card for this team will be the power throughout their lineup and their ability to control the strike zone with long at-bats.
If the pitching can hold up throughout the season, there is no reason why the Panthers won’t be fighting for the top spot in the conference and find themselves in the national spotlight. It will be nearly impossible for the world of collegiate baseball to ignore this team full of electric bats throughout the lineup.
It would be a disservice not to speak about another breakout player: sophomore outfielder JoJo Jackson. He flashed his raw power and athletic ability throughout his 2022 freshman season, but it looks like it is all starting to come together here at the beginning of his sophomore season. In 51 at-bats, he is hitting .373 with six home runs and 20 RBIs, second to Dylan Strickland.
The team goes as the top three (Ryersom, Strickland, Jackson) go, and if they continue this kind of production at the plate, the Panthers will make some serious noise. They are undefeated in the conference so far this season. As of right now, they look to be the favorites to win the SBC and book a ticket to the NCAA Division I baseball tournament, something the team has only accomplished once in program history (2009).