SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Two-time defending Southern Conference regular-season baseball champion and 2015 preseason pick Western Carolina saw three infielders named to the Preseason All-Southern Conference first team, including Preseason Player of the Year Jacob Hoyle. UNCG right-hander Ryan Clark was named the Preseason Pitcher of the Year in voting conducted by the league’s nine head coaches, who also chose two all-conference teams and could not vote for their own players.
Samford, which reached the SoCon Championship title game for the third time in four seasons in 2014, placed a league-best five players on the two preseason squads, including a SoCon-high four on the first team. UNCG followed with four total selections, tying Western Carolina with three first-team picks, while Furman and Mercer each had a first-team pick. The Citadel, Furman, Mercer, VMI and Wofford had two second-team selections each, while ETSU, UNCG and Samford had one each.
All nine SoCon teams were represented on the preseason teams.
Western Carolina’s Hoyle, a two-time All-SoCon selection and a Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American this year, shared the SoCon lead with 14 home runs last season. The senior first baseman from Hickory, N.C., started all 55 games last year as the Catamounts won their second straight regular-season title, hitting .332 with 53 RBIs and a .570 slugging percentage. He hit a team-best .379 in league play.
Hoyle was joined on the preseason first team by fellow preseason All-American Bradley Strong (second base) and Danny Bermudez (catcher).
UNCG’s Clark was 3-6 with a 3.68 ERA last season, striking out 68 batters against 22 walks in 93 innings of work. His .244 batting average against in 2014 was the sixth-best mark in the league. He also ranked in the top 10 in the SoCon in ERA, innings pitched and batters struck out looking (25). Clark was a SoCon All-Freshman selection in 2013.
Joining Clark on the preseason first team were Spartan outfielders Eric Kalbfleisch and Zac MacAneney. Second baseman Hunter King was a second-team pick.
Samford reliever Andres Gracia, shortstop Frankie Navarrete, outfielder Heath Quinn and designated hitter Jared Watson earned first-team honors, while starting pitcher Alex Ledford, who led the league with 11 wins last season, was a second-team pick. Quinn was the SoCon Freshman of the Year last season.
Mercer starting pitcher Eric Nyquist turned in eight wins and a 3.12 ERA to earn first-team All-Atlantic Sun honors last season, and took a spot on the preseason SoCon first team this year. Furman third baseman Chris Ohmstede, a second-team All-SoCon pick last year, earned the remaining preseason first-team nod.
The Citadel put reliever Skylar Hunter and shortstop Johnathan Stokes on the second team, while ETSU third baseman Chris Cook represented the Bucs. Furman had a pair of second-teamers in Jake Jones (outfield) and Jarrod Rickman (designated hitter), as did Mercer with catcher Charlie Madden and first baseman Howard Joe. VMI was represented on the second team by starting pitcher Andrew Woods and outfielder Brandon Angus, and Wofford rounded out the team with starting pitcher Matthew Milburn and outfielder James Plaisted.
The second team featured three starting pitchers because of a tie in the voting.
The 2015 season opens for all nine league teams on Friday, Feb. 13, with each team but VMI playing at home. This season’s SoCon Baseball Championship will take place at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park in Charleston, S.C., from May 19-24 and will include all nine teams.
2015 Preseason All-Southern Conference
Preseason Player of the Year
Jacob Hoyle, Sr., 1B, Western Carolina
Preseason Pitcher of the Year
Ryan Clark, Jr., RHP, UNCG
SP Eric Nyquist, Mercer
SP Ryan Clark, UNCG
RP Andres Gracia, Samford
C Danny Bermudez, Western Carolina
1B Jacob Hoyle, Western Carolina
2B Bradley Strong, Western Carolina
SS Frankie Navarrete, Samford
3B Chris Ohmstede, Furman
OF Eric Kalbfleisch, UNCG
OF Zac MacAneney, UNCG
OF Heath Quinn, Samford
DH Jared Watson, Samford
SP Alex Ledford, Samford
SP Andrew Woods, VMI
SP Matthew Milburn, Wofford
RP Skylar Hunter, The Citadel
C Charlie Madden, Mercer
1B Howard Joe, Mercer
2B Hunter King, UNCG
SS Johnathan Stokes, The Citadel
3B Chris Cook, ETSU
OF Jake Jones, Furman
OF Brandon Angus, VMI
OF James Plaisted, Wofford
DH Jarrod Rickman, Furman