Michael Curry never took into account his age, or his own individual aspirations at that matter, when he was appointed team captain before the start of his sophomore season.
And when SEC coaches announced Monday his First-Team All-SEC nod, the reaction was almost nonchalant for the Gainesville High graduate, who from Day 1 has managed to carry himself like a seasoned veteran.
Curry’s output was a reflection of a more patient approach at the plate, not to mention his lead-by-example inclination on the baseball diamond according to Georgia coach Scott Stricklin. The Bulldogs’ catcher and designated hitter started all 56 games, and was tabbed as First-Team All-SEC designated hitter after batting .298 with 46 RBI and 10 home runs — three during a SEC series with Arkansas April 13-15 — while cutting down his strikeout total by 20 percent from the middle of the order. He follows a standout freshman season in which he earned a Freshman All-American distinction.
“(Curry) is a guy who takes a lot of pride in what he does. It’s no shock to me to see him as a First-team, All-SEC guy,” said Stricklin, who has coached the Bulldogs for the last four seasons. “His bat really works, he’s got a lot of power, and the thing he did a really great job with this year was his plate discipline. So that’s what you see elite hitters do, make adjustments, and he really did that.”
Curry sporting the letter ‘C’ on his uniform may of supplemented that progression as well.
“Having that role of being a captain really pushed me to be the best person I can be, on and off the field,” said Curry, who has led the team in home runs for his freshman (11) and sophomore campaigns (10).
“I was never a firm believer in being young — inexperienced. This year definitely changed my perspective, especially in the SEC, like, have maturity on the field, having experience. It means a lot and it goes a long way.”
Curry is joined by fellow Bulldog and former Georgia Roadrunner teammate Cam Shepherd, who was named Freshman All-SEC on Monday as well. Shepherd, a native of Duluth, started all 56 games at shortstop, hitting .303 with a team-high 16 doubles plus five home runs and 28 RBIs.
Curry and Stricklin admitted youth played a factor for a Georgia team composed of six freshmen, and only two seniors.
The Bulldogs (25-32, 11-12 SEC) however won 8 of their last 12 games — including series wins over No. 8 Kentucky, then fourth-ranked Mississippi State and South Carolina — to close out the regular season, before their elimination in the opening round of the SEC tournament earlier this month.
Tasting wins against ranked opponents has Curry optimistic the Bulldogs will turn things around, and maybe, earn an NCAA tournament bidding for the first time in coach Stricklin’s tenure. The Bulldogs have not advanced to the national stage since 2011.
Stricklin said he expects Curry to be voted captain again next spring and lead from the middle of the order.
“Being young, it really didn’t affect us. I didn’t want to believe it, I didn’t think it mattered. But I saw that it does,” Curry said.
“Getting on that roll, beating Top-10 teams two weeks in-a-row, we started tasting it. It just showed how much we’ve grown. I am really looking forward to (the next season).”
Until then, Curry plans to spend time with parents Tawnya, Richard and younger brother Joey before the start of the Cape Cod summer baseball leagues June 14. Curry had the chance to visit to his hometown of Murphy, N.C. on Saturday, where he watched brother Joey and his former high school team Murphy win its first-ever 1-A Western Regional title for a spot in the baseball state championship series. Joey, a junior, plays shortstop and previously won a football state title as Murphy’s starting quarterback in the fall.