By Sammy Clough, Contributor
With the start of the 2017 college baseball season just a little less than a month away, new head coach Brett Harker and the Paladins have their eyes set on what could be Furman’s first College World Series appearance.
After posting an overall record of 29-30 last season, the Paladins hope to build upon their fourth place Southern Conference finish by relying on the return of many of last season’s regulars, as well as numerous young players to fill out their deep roster.
Under the new direction of Coach Brett Harker, former Furman pitching coach, the Paladins have set the lofty goal of qualifying for their first College World Series. Harker has pushed the idea of “1,076 miles to Omaha” (the distance from Furman to the College World Series) throughout the offseason, and truly believes they can make it there. “We have a special team this year,” Harker said. “The kids have bought in, and we really have a great environment”.
Veteran players like junior pitcher Will Gaddis have noticed a difference in the program already. “The culture has more energy,” said Gaddis, the reigning SoCon Pitcher of the Year, “this team has the most heart [of any] I’ve ever played with; they’ll do anything to win.”
Gaddis is coming off a summer playing in the prestigious Cape Cod League where he gained crucial experience pitching against the nation’s most lethal bats. Looking to capitalize on confidence built through the offseason, Gaddis says he really learned how to “pitch to my abilities” and “put the team in the best position to win.”
Along with Gaddis, the Paladins will rely on other impact players, such as Senior Cam Whitehead, a catcher returning from injury last season and hoping to add power to the Paladins’ lineup. They also return relief pitcher and third baseman Jake Crawford, a spark plug for the team, as well last season’s SoCon Freshman of the Year, Jabari Richards. The Paladins will also look to freshman David Webel to provide energy to what Coach Harker believes can be “the best outfield in the Southern Conference.”
The Furman Paladins begin their long journey to Omaha, Nebrasaka, opening their season at home in a three-game series against the Dayton Flyers Feb. 17.