baseball Edit

Cole Wagner heeding dad's advice

Akron at Georgia

WHERE: Field Field

WHEN: Friday 5 p.m., Saturday (DH) 2 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m.

RECORDS: Georgia 4-0, Akron 1-2

STARTING PITCHERS: Friday - Jonathan Cannon (1-0, 0.00 ERA, RHP, Jr.) vs. Conor Steinbaugh (0-1, 18.00, RHP, Gr.); Saturday Game 1: Liam Sullivan (0-0, 18.00, LHP, So.) vs. Taed Heydinger (0-1, 11.25, RHP, Gr.); Game 2: Garrett Brown (0-0, 0.00 ERA, RHP, RSo.) vs. Anthony Fett (0-0, 3.38, LHP, So.); Sunday: Dylan Ross (1-0, 1.80 ERA, RHP, Jr.) vs. Brady Biglin (0-0, 15.00, RHP, Jr.)

TV/RADIO: SEC Network+; Georgia Bulldog Radio Network (Jeff Dantzler and David Johnston).

Freshman Cole Wagner heeding dad's advice.
Freshman Cole Wagner heeding dad's advice. (Tony Walsh/UGA Sports Communications)

There’s a lot of advice that freshman Cole Wagner’s dad Bret, a former first-round pick in 1994 by the St. Louis Cardinals, has passed along through the years.

However, the biggest tip he’s received might surprise you.

“The biggest thing he’s taught me is how to deal with failure,” Cole Wagner said after batting practice Thursday afternoon.

As Wagner explained, few sports are as humbling as baseball. One day, you’re seeing the ball great, putting on good swings; you can’t miss. But just when you think you’ve got it figured out, that’s when you slump. Baseballs suddenly look like golf balls, and getting back to where you were before can prove to be quite the challenge.

Fortunately for Wagner, times are currently good.

The Pennsylvania native’s college career is off to a quick start after going 3-for-9 in Georgia’s first four games, including his first career home runs.

At 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds, Wagner has essentially forced his way into what’s a veteran Bulldog lineup, giving head coach Scott Stricklin another big left-handed bat.

While Wagner is certainly excited, he can’t help but harken back to his dad’s advice.

“The success I’ve had these last couple of games, I’m just trying to keep my head straight and know that baseball is a game of ups and downs,” Wagner said. “When you’re high, you’re high, but you’re going to be low eventually. I’m just trying to ride it out.”

Wagner certainly has a good head on his shoulders.

The 19-year-old was the valedictorian at Red Land High in Lewisberry, Penn., where he batted 353 with four home runs and 32 RBI his senior year.

“I’ve had my fair share of o-fers. I’ve had tournaments where I’ve gone hitless. Even this fall, I’ve had periods where I was struggling and striking out every at-bat,” Wagner said. “As much success as it seems like I’ve had, I’ve definitely gone through failure along the way. But ultimately, that’s what has helped me have some success is being able to have that mindset that success is temporary, failure is temporary, and to just enjoy the process.”

Stricklin says it’s Wagner’s consistency that’s earned him his current opportunity, despite the presence of some veteran teammates like Chaney Rogers, Garrett Blaylock, and Garrett Spikes, three players who happen to be similar left-handed hitters.

“He's been one of our most consistent guys in January and early February during intra-squads. He was hitting the ball really hard. He had a good fall, but he made a jump, and in January and February, he was really good,” Stricklin said. “We knew we had to get him some at-bats and some opportunities. He just kind of ran with it. He got the start for Game 2 and just hit balls hard. He actually hit the homer on Sunday, and then he hit the home run against Wofford that the guy made an unbelievable catch.”

It's apparent that Wagner has a pretty good idea what he’s doing when he’s at the plate.

Sunday’s home run was an opposite field shot to left, but he’s also shown he’s quite capable of dropping his hands and yanking the ball to right field, where the short right-field fence at Foley Field is an inviting target.

“I feel like right now, I’m trusting my eyes,” Wagner said. “I feel my swing is in a good spot, which allows me to really see the ball. I’m not trying to steer it, I’m not trying to take it the other way—I’m just seeing the ball the best I can and trust I put on a good swing.”

The first cousin of Bulldog sophomore Luke Wagner figures to get more opportunities this weekend against visiting Akron, coached by former Cincinnati Reds third baseman Chris Sabo.

“We’ve got him, we’ve got Garrett Spikes, got Chaney Rogers, got Garrett Blaylock—four left-handed hitters, and they’re all fighting for like one or two spots,” Stricklin said. “We’ve just got to find ways early on to get guys at-bats and playing time, to hopefully get to the point where we can settle on a more consistent lineup.”

Whatever happens, Wagner says he’ll try to take advantage of whatever chances he receives.

“I’m just trying to use every opportunity to help the team win; there’s so many guys who have been here for so long and part of really good teams. The goal here is to win,” he said. “For me, that individual success is great; I just want to do my part to give the team its best opportunity to be successful.”

Pregame notes