An Updated Roster: Transforming Georgia Baseball's Transfer Portal | Georgia Sports

College football may be the first thing that comes to mind when a sports fan thinks about the transfer portal, but it is far from the only college sport that has been transformed by the new system.

The Georgia baseball team has been particularly active on the portal. This season his squad is full of transfers.

“Playing the game with four-year-old friends is great and everything, but sometimes you need a little change in your life,” Baylor transfer Kolby Branch said.

With the addition of 28 new players to its roster, Wes Johnson and the Georgia baseball team are looking to make changes this season and prove themselves as a competitive SEC program.

“When you enter the portal and start recruiting there… yes, you have to look at their talent and their skills, but [you also have to ask] “Do they fit what you’re trying to accomplish with your program,” Johnson said.

With many new faces, the program has welcomed offensive leaders such as Slate Alford, Kolby Branch, Dylan Goldstein and Clayton Chadwick. This group is just a small portion of the nearly 20 players the Bulldogs have acquired through the transfer portal since last season, not to mention the new additions that have been added, bringing the group of newcomers to nearly 30. Despite the new faces, the group got along well and quickly.

“We all got along really well [from] Day one here,” Goldstein said. “Our bond [keeps] We’re building something every day, so they bounce off each other in that regard.”

Branch, a former Baylor Bear, headed to Athens after his freshman season as one of Baylor's best hitters. That year, he was named a Freshman All-American by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.

The sophomore has had big moments with the team, including multiple grand slams this season. When he first joined the team, Branch said he was grateful for players like Charlie Condon, Corey Collins and Fernando Gonzalez who welcomed him to the team and took him under their wing. However, he was also happy about so many other transfers in the team.

“I think it’s a calming feeling,” Branch said. “It's like a new squad, you come together and just play the game you love. It feels like the sandlot guys and you just get together and go play ball and that’s what I like.”

Alford also had success as a Bulldog and currently leads the SEC in total appearances and at-bats. Between Alford, Goldstein and Branch, the team's offense has reached explosive levels, breaking Georgia's record for grand slams in a season with nine. In addition to Condon, Collins and Gonzalez, the offense has helped Georgia to the top of the leaderboard in multiple Division I offensive categories and kept the Bulldogs hopeful heading into the upcoming SEC Tournament.

“It's a well-coordinated group, I think that's the really exciting thing about the whole thing,” said Condon before the season. “We have a lot of guys that have a lot of college baseball experience. A lot of guys that have played in competitive conferences and competitive leagues… I think that will lead to great success.”

However, the Bulldogs didn't fully go on offense in the portal. Pitchers Christian Mracna and Brian Zeldin were important additions to the pitching staff.

Mracna, a multiple transfer from George Mason, played for several programs before deciding to join the Bulldogs in January. He was a consistent weekend starter all year, posting a 4.24 ERA with a 3-2 record and leading the team in strikeouts with 58.

Zeldin, a transfer from Penn, was recently named Stopper of the Year on the Midseason Watch List and has posted a 2.10 ERA along with a 3-1 record, 30 strikeouts and five saves. Zeldin quickly found a role as a key reliever and closer.

Johnson has done a good job of taking a team that disappointed last season and overhauling the program in an offseason. The team isn't necessarily at World Series level yet, but its success is largely due to its new head coach and the new roster he has assembled.

“Sometimes you don’t really know what you’re going to get… and so on [Johnson]“Thank God it was the same energy,” Branch said. “It’s appreciated and he’s done some great things.”

Anna Harden

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