2019 MBK tourney
Thomas, Winder highlight All-Conference team
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 02/08/2018
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VMI's Josh Winder and Mercer's JT Thomas
Courtesy: Southern Conference

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Mercer senior catcher JT Thomas and VMI junior right-hander Josh Winder have been voted the Southern Conference baseball preseason player and pitcher of the year, respectively, in voting of the nine league head coaches. The coaches also selected a pair of preseason all-conference teams.

Eight of the nine SoCon baseball schools were represented on the preseason teams. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players. The first team featured 13 players due to a tie in voting, while the second team featured 12.

UNCG, which won the SoCon championship in 2017 and finished tied for third in the regular season, led the way with seven preseason all-conference selections. The Spartans, who were picked to finish tied for first in the coaches’ poll and second in the media poll, also lead the way with five first-team selections.

Samford and VMI, which finished sixth and eighth, respectively, both have four total selections while ETSU boasts three. Furman, Mercer and Wofford each feature two selections while The Citadel has one.

The Bears’ Thomas, a transfer from Chattahoochee Valley Community College, batted .357 with 62 RBIs in 2017, hit first year at Mercer. Thomas led Mercer in in hits (75), slugging percentage (.624), on-base percentage (.454) and total bases (131). A native of Woodstock, Georgia, Thomas was named to the All-SoCon first team and was a two-time SoCon player of the week. In addition to earning 2017 Perfect Game/Rawlings All-America honorable mention, Thomas was named to both the 2018 Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-America first team and the NCBWA Preseason All-America first team.

VMI’s Winder went 7-6 with a 3.59 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 2017. As a sophomore, Winder was named to the All-SoCon second team and set the school record for innings pitched (107 2/3). Winder had six games in which he struck out 10 or more batters and was named the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week after throwing a complete game, three-hit shutout against Samford.

Thomas and UNCG’s Austin Embler (second base) each earned the maximum number of votes at their positions on the preseason all-conference team.

UNCG’s Caleb Webster (third base), Andrew Moritz, Dillon Stewart (outfield) and Devin Ruiz (designated hitter); ETSU’s Chris Cook (shortstop); Mercer’s Robert Broom (relief pitcher); VMI’s Matt Pita (outfield); Furman’s Brandon Elmy (first base); Samford’s Cody Shelton (starting pitcher); and Wofford’s McClain Bradley (outfield) round out the first team.

Thomas and Moritz were first-team all-conference in 2017, while Winder and Bradley were named All-SoCon second team. In addition to being named first-team all-conference, Webster was named the league’s freshman of the year.

Samford headlines the second team with three selections, while ETSU, UNCG, and VMI each have a pair. The Bulldogs are represented by relief pitcher Wyatt Burns, outfielder Troy Dixon and designated hitter Ayrton Schafer. ETSU’s Ryan Simpler (starting pitcher) and Austin Maher (outfield); UNCG’s Matt Frisbee (starting pitcher) and Tripp Shelton (shortstop); VMI’s Peyton Maddox (catcher) and Collin Fleischer (first base) all represent their respective teams.

Wofford’s Reed Massey (second base), The Citadel’s Jonathan Sabo (third base) and Furman’s Landon Kay (outfield) round out the second team.

The 2018 season opens for all nine league teams on Friday, Feb. 16. This season’s SoCon Baseball Championship will return to Fluor Field in Greenville, South Carolina, from May 22-27 and will include all nine teams.

2018 Preseason All-Southern Conference
Preseason Player of the Year
JT Thomas, Sr., C, Mercer 

Preseason Pitcher of the Year
Josh Winder, Jr., RHP, VMI

 First Team
SP     Cody Shelton, Samford

SP     Josh Winder, VMI
RP     Robert Broom, Mercer
C       JT Thomas, Mercer
1B     Brandon Elmy, Furman
2B     Austin Embler, UNCG
SS     Chris Cook, ETSU
3B     Caleb Webster, UNCG
OF     Andrew Moritz, UNCG
OF     Dillon Stewart, UNCG
OF     Matt Pita, VMI
OF     McClain Bradley, Wofford
DH    Devin Ruiz, UNCG

Second Team
SP     Ryan Simpler, ETSU

SP     Matt Frisbee, UNCG
RP     Wyatt Burns, Samford
C       Peyton Maddox, VMI
1B     Collin Fleischer, VMI
2B     Reed Massey, Wofford
SS     Tripp Shelton, UNCG
3B     Jonathan Sabo, The Citadel
OF     Aaron Maher, ETSU
OF     Landon Kay, Furman
OF     Troy Dixon, Samford
DH    Ayrton Schafer, Samford

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