SPARTANBURG, S.C. – 2018 Southern Conference tournament champion Samford was picked to win the 2019 league title by in both the coaches’ and media’s preseason polls.
The top three teams in each poll were the same with the Bulldogs leading the way in the coaches’ poll with 63 total points and receiving seven first-place votes while totaling 123 points and 11 first-place votes in the media poll. UNCG finished second in both, totaling 55 points with two first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and 107 points with one first-place vote in this year’s media poll. Coming in third in both was Mercer with 52 points in the coaches’ poll and 98 points with two first-place votes in the media poll.
Samford had four selected to this year’s preseason all-conference teams, including preseason pitcher of the year and first-team selection Sam Strickland. The sophomore earned the maximum number of votes at his position and was named to the 2019 Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-America third team. He posted an 8-2 record last season while holding a 2.33 ERA and recording a team-best 87 strikeouts.
UNCG, which was the 2018 conference regular-season champion at 18-3 and posted a 39-15 overall record, had two first-team selections, including preseason player of the year Caleb Webster (third base). Webster was named the 2017 freshman of the year and led the Spartans in at bats (237) during his sophomore campaign. The Spartans are once again led by 2018 Coach of the Year Link Jarrett.
Mercer, which ended its 2018 season with a 11-13 conference record, had four named
four to the preseason teams – three on the first team and one on the second team. The Bears return 22 letter winners including first-team preseason selection Nick Spear (relief pitcher) and designated hitter Le Bassett. Bassett set the Bears’ program freshman record last season with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs while batting .282 with 42 hits and 33 runs.
Finishing fourth in the coaches’ poll and fifth in the media poll, the ETSU Bucs have representation on both the first and second team. The Bucs finished the season in sixth last year and return 10 position starters including first-team selection David Beam (outfield), who was selected to the 2018 Southern Conference All-Freshman team.
Coming in fifth in the coaches’ poll and fourth in the media poll are the Wofford Terriers. The Terriers headline this year’s second team with three selections including starting pitcher Austin Higginbotham and relief pitcher Anthony Garcia. Their lone representation on the first-team, Colin Davis (outfielder), led the team in slugging percentage (.611) last season while driving in 45 runs.
Western Carolina (5,19, 11-27 SoCon) finished sixth in the coaches’ poll and seventh in the media poll. The Catamounts return a duo of sophomores in Justice Bigbie (outfield) and Will Prater (outfield) who were all named to last season’s all-freshman team by the league’s coaches.
The Furman Paladins finished seventh in the coaches’ poll and sixth in the media poll. The Paladins finished the 2018 season seventh with an overall record of 24-28 and a conference record of 9-12. They are represented this on this seasons preseason all-conference second team by Nik Verbeke (starting pitcher) and Jabari Richards (outfield).
Rounding out the bottom of both polls is The Citadel and VMI. The Citadel finished eighth in the coaches’ poll and ninth in the media poll while VMI finished ninth and eighth, respectively.
After finishing the 2018 season with an 8-16 conference record and 19-34 overall record, the Bulldogs will return first-team selections in Jeffrey Brown (outfield) who appeared in 47 games and hit .325 and Dylan Spence (starting pitcher).
Finishing their 2018 regular season campaign in fourth with a record of 26-27 overall and 12-12 in the league, the Keydets have representation on this year’s preseason second team in Jacob Huggins (first base) who was a second-team all-conference team coaches’ selection last year.
The 2019 season opens for all nine league teams on Friday, Feb. 15. This season’s SoCon Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases will return to Fluor Field in Greenville, South Carolina, from May 21-26 and will include all nine teams.
2019 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll
Place Team (1st-place votes) Points
1. Samford (7) 63
2. UNCG (2) 55
3. Mercer 52
4. ETSU 35
5. Wofford 33
6. Western Carolina 31
7. Furman 24
8. The Citadel 22
9. VMI 9
2019 Preseason Southern Conference Media Poll
Place Team (1st-place votes) Points
1. Samford (11) 123
2. UNCG (1) 107
3. Mercer (2) 98
4. Wofford 83
5. ETSU 64
6. Furman 49
7. Western Carolina 46
8. VMI 32
9. The Citadel 28