SPARTANBURG, S.C. – ETSU junior catcher Hagen Owenby and Furman junior right-hander Will Gaddis 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 12 players, while the second team had 13 because of a tie in the voting.
Mercer, which has won the regular-season SoCon title in each of the last two years, and UNCG, which tied for second place in the league in 2016, shared league-high honors with six preseason all-conference selections each. The Bears, the SoCon media’s preseason favorite, led all teams with four first-team selections, while the Spartans, the coaches’ pick to win the league, put three student-athletes on each team.
Western Carolina, which won the SoCon baseball tournament and tied with UNCG for second in the regular-season standings last year, had four total selections, followed by Furman with three, ETSU and Samford with two each and VMI and Wofford with one each.
ETSU’s Owenby hit .374 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs last season en route to spots on the All-SoCon first team and the Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger All-America second team. The Knoxville, Tennessee, native ranked in the top 10 in the league in seven offensive categories in 2016, finishing sixth in batting average, fifth in slugging percentage (.660), fourth in hits (88), eighth in RBIs, 10th in doubles (16), fifth in homers and fourth in total bases (151). Owenby, who was drafted in the 14th round of the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, won the TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby in the summer and is a preseason second-team All-America pick by Collegiate Baseball heading into this season.
Furman’s Gaddis went 10-3 with 92 strikeouts against just 20 walks in 101 2/3 innings in 2016, earning SoCon Pitcher of the Year honors from both the league’s coaches and media. The Brentwood, Tennessee, native turned in a 3.45 ERA, second-best in the league and tops among starters, and posted a pair of complete games, including a four-hit shutout of Owenby’s Bucs in the first round of the SoCon Baseball Championship. Gaddis led the league in wins and innings pitched and was second in opposing batting average (.249), fourth in strikeouts and sixth in batters struck out looking (26). A second-team all-region selection last year, he is rated 39th among Baseball America’s top 100 college draft prospects entering the 2017 campaign.
Owenby and Gaddis each earned the maximum number of votes at their positions on the preseason all-conference team, as did UNCG reliever Andrew Wantz, who shared SoCon media pitcher of the year honors with Gaddis last year. Gaddis also earned the maximum number of votes in the preseason pitcher of the year voting this year.
Mercer’s Ryan Askew (starting pitcher), Matt Meeder (shortstop), Danny Edgeworth (third base) and Trey Truitt (outfield); UNCG’s Ben Spitznagel (second base) and Cesar Trejo (designated hitter); Furman’s Jabari Richards (outfield); Samford’s Austin Edens (first base); and Western Carolina’s Bryson Bowman (outfield) round out the first team.
Gaddis, Wantz, Owenby, Edens and Meeder were first-team all-conference selections last season, while Spitznagel, Truitt and Bowman were second-team picks and Richards was the league’s freshman of the year.
UNCG and Western Carolina headline the second team with three selections each. The Spartans are represented by Matt Frisbee (starting pitcher), Andrew Moritz (outfield) and Dillon Stewart (outfield), while the Catamounts boast Bryan Sammons (starting pitcher), Matt Smith (outfield) and Andrew Bullock (designated hitter). Moritz earned second-team all-conference honors at DH last year, while Smith was the first-team first-base pick.
Mercer’s Charlie Madden (catcher) and Ryan Hagan (second base), ETSU’s Chris Cook (shortstop), Furman’s Jake Crawford (third base), Samford’s Wyatt Burns (relief pitcher), VMI’s Collin Fleischer (first base) and Wofford’s Max McDougald (third base) complete the second team.
The 2017 season opens for all nine league teams on Friday, Feb. 17. This season’s SoCon Baseball Championship will return to Fluor Field in Greenville, South Carolina, from May 23-28 and will include all nine teams.
2017 Preseason All-Southern Conference
Preseason Player of the Year
Hagen Owenby, Jr., C, ETSU
Preseason Pitcher of the Year
Will Gaddis, Jr., RHP, Furman
SP Will Gaddis, Furman
SP Ryan Askew, Mercer
RP Andrew Wantz, UNCG
C Hagen Owenby, ETSU
1B Austin Edens, Samford
2B Ben Spitznagel, UNCG
SS Matt Meeder, Mercer
3B Danny Edgeworth, Mercer
OF Trey Truitt, Mercer
OF Jabari Richards, Furman
OF Bryson Bowman, Western Carolina
DH Cesar Trejo, UNCG
SP Matt Frisbee, UNCG
SP Bryan Sammons, Western Carolina
RP Wyatt Burns, Samford
C Charlie Madden, Mercer
1B Collin Fleischer, VMI
2B Ryan Hagan, Mercer
SS Chris Cook, ETSU
3B Jake Crawford, Furman
3B Max McDougald, Wofford
OF Andrew Moritz, UNCG
OF Dillon Stewart, UNCG
OF Matt Smith, Western Carolina
DH Andrew Bullock, Western Carolina