Atlantic Sun Baseball 2010 Preview

February 18, 2010
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High Expectations For FGCU In First Year Of NCAA Eligibility

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2009 Regular Season Champion: Florida Gulf Coast

2009 Tournament Champion: Jacksonville defeated Lipscomb 7-4 to win their 4th A-Sun title.

End of the Rhodes: North Florida head coach Dusty Rhodes announced that 2010 will be his last season with the Ospreys.  Rhodes announced his retirement last August.  He will have spent 23 season at the helm, starting the program from scratch and guiding UNF to 16 postseason appearances, including 5 trips to the College World Series (2 in NAIA, 3 in NCAA Division II).  UNF announced that their home field will be named after Rhodes and will be dedicated March 6th before their home game against Alcorn State.

Florida Gulf Coast is the unanimous choice to win the A-Sun title according to the coaches.  FGCU won the title last season winning 23 conference games becoming the first Atlantic Sun team to win back-to-back conference titles in its first 2 years in the league since the conference went to a one-division formant in 1999.

Belmont

2009 Season: (29-29, 15-15)

Nickname: Bruins

Head Coach: David Jarvis

Location: Nashville, TN

Dylan Craig

Vitals: .295 BA, 63 HR, .382 OBP, .959 Fld. %…6.47 ERA, 6 CG, 10 SVs, 294 K, 237 BB, .316 Opp. BA

Hole in the Middle: Belmont loses three top players from last year, including their 3-4 hitters Derek Wiley (.308, 17 HR, 51 RBI), the A-Sun’s career homerun hitter, and Brandon McCall (.344, 8 HR, 48 RBI) who combined to score or drive in 46.7 percent of Belmont’s runs in 2009.   The Bruins must also replace 2B Daniel Wagner (.323, 10 HR, 57 RBI).

Who’s Back: While Belmont loses a lot of offense they do bring back a couple key parts.  So. OF Dylan Craig (.397, 92 H, 9 triples) was the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American.  Jr. C Matt Zeblo (.335, 5 HR, 35 RBI) returns behind the plate.

Campbell

2009 Season: (27-24, 7-19)

Nickname: Fighting Camels

Head Coach: Greg Goff

Location: Buies Creek, NC

Vitals: .346 BA, 42 HR, .444 OBP, .966 Fld. %…6.95 ERA, 2 CG, 7 SVs, 337 K, 186 BB, .353 Opp. BA

Great Offense: Campbell’s offensive numbers in 2009 stack up with some of the best in the nation.  They were ranked in the top 10 nationally in team BA (.346), scoring (10.1), doubles per game (2.78), stolen bases per game (2.29), and hit by pitch (123).  They also had three players hit over .400 for the season.

Key Returners: Campbell loses top hitter Ryan Hamme (.438, 26 doubles, 51 RBI), but do bring back two key offensive players from a season ago.  Leading the offense this season will be Sr. OF Zach Johnson (.380, 29 doubles, 12 HR), who led the nation in doubles last year, and Jr. 2B Ellis Lowe (.404, 5 HR, 62 RBI).  On the mound, Sr. LHP Jeff Rydman (5-1, 5.43 ERA, 45 K) will lead the staff.

East Tennessee State

2009 Season: (25-28, 10-20)

Nickname: Buccaneers

Head Coach: Tony Skole

Location: Johnson City, TN

Paul Hoilman

Vitals: .313 BA, 72 HR, .398 OBP, .948 Fld. %…8.27 ERA, 2 CG, 8 SVs, 293 K, 218 BB, .349 Opp. BA

Big Bucs: ETSU returns its top two sluggers from last year in Jr. 1B Paul Hoilman (.380, 17 HR, 66 RBI) and So. 3B Bo Reeder (.339, 15 HR, 53 RBI).  Both Hoilmand and Reeder earned 3rd team preseason All-American honors from Louisville Slugger.

On the mound, the Bucs return Jr. RHP Chas Byrne (6-4, 5.53 ERA, 67 K), and Bo Reeder, who in addition to putting up big power number at the plate, went 4-4, with 1 CG and 1 SV on the rubber.

Traveling’ Men: ETSU makes its first ever trip to the West Coast this season when they travel to take on Oregon in Eugene May 14-16th.

Florida Gulf Coast

2009 Season: (36-18, 23-7)

Nickname: Eagles

Head Coach: Dave Tollett

Location: Fort Myers, FL

Vitals: .320 BA, 74 HR, .409 OBP, .962 Fld. %…5.02 ERA, 3 CG, 14 SVs, 460 K, 169 BB, .290 Opp. BA

Chris Sale

Conference Power: Florida Gulf Coast swept the preseason honors from the A-Sun.  They were picked to win the conference for the third year in a row by the coaches.  1B Zach Maxfield (.383, 20 HR, 66 RBI) was named the preseason A-Sun Player of the Year, while Jr. LHP Chris Sale (7-4, 2.72 ERA, 104 K) is the preseason Pitcher of the YearSale also was named a 1st team All-American by Baseball America, a 2nd team All-American from Ping!, and was the Cape Cod Pitcher of the Year last summer.

Playing the Best: FGCU faces a tough slate this year.  The Eagles will face 12th-ranked Miami, 16th ranked Clemson, 9th-ranked Florida, and 27th-ranked Wichita State all on the road in 2010.

Jacksonville

2009 Season: (37-22, 19-11)

Nickname: Dolphins

Head Coach: Terry Alexander

Location: Jacksonville, FL

Vitals: .301 BA, 62 HR, .400 OBP, .952 Fld. %…5.18 ERA, 2 CG, 13 SVs, 451 K, 184 BB, .288 Opp. BA

Pitching Strength: Jacksonville won its 5th A-Sun conference championship last year and should contend again behind a strong pitching staff this season.  Two JU pitchers are on the preseason All-A-Sun team led by Jr. RHP Matt Loosen (4-1, 4.16 ERA, 91 K) and Jr. RHP Chris Kaminski (5-1, 2.70 ERA, 8 SVs).

Offensive Leaders: The Dolphins lose top hitter Jeremy Gillan (.400, 11 HR, 62 RBI), but bring back plenty of speed and power with 1st team preseason All-A-Sun player Sr. Chuck Opachich (.377, 42 RBI, 19 SB) and Sr. OF Alex Martinez (.306, 12 HR, 53 RBI).

Kennesaw State

2009 Season: (30-22, 20-9)

Nickname: Owls

Head Coach: Mike Sansing

Location: Kennesaw, GA

Vitals: .307 BA, 65 HR, .391 OBP, .963 Fld. %…5.08 ERA, 7 CG, 8 SVs, 475 K, 199 BB, .281 Opp. BA

Stepping Up: KSU loses 13 players overall, including 6 regular starters off their 2nd place team last year.  The top five hitters are all gone, but two preseason All-Atlantic Sun performers do return in Sr. SS Tyler Stubblefield (.300, 7 HR, 27 RBI) and Jr. OF Josh Whitaker (.379, 4 HR, 25 RBI in 22 GP)

Owl Arms: The biggest concern for KSU has to be the pitching staff where 6 pitchers are gone from the 2009 team including A-Sun Pitcher of the Year Chad Jenkins (8-1, 2.54 ERA, 98 K, 5 CG).  The top returning pitcher is Jr. RHP Ryan Rodebaugh (1-1, 4.10 ERA, 2 SVs).

Lipscomb

2009 Season: (24-32, 17-13)

Nickname: Bison

Head Coach: Jeff Forehand

Location: Nashville, TN

Vitals: .280 BA, 42 HR, .356 OBP, .949 Fld. %…6.19 ERA, 6 CG, 9 SVs, 442 K, 258 BB, .279 Opp. BA

Strong Down the Stretch: Lipscomb finished 8 games below .500 overall, but still finished with a winning conference record, reaching the tournament championship game before falling to Jacksonville 7-4.

Ace in the Hole: While the Bison lose staff ace and first round MLB draft pick Rex Brothers (5-5, 3.26 ERA, 4 CG, 132 K), they do bring back Sr. RHP Josh Smith (7-4, 3.86 ERA, 101 K).

Offensive Production: Lipscomb will look to improve the offense this year behind CF Tyler Wilson (.320, 65 H, 25 SB), 1B Ryan Wilkins (.290, 5 doubles, 21 RBI).  Several newcomers expect to fill out the lineup as well with Jr. Cory Hale (.304, 14 HR, 41 RBI), a transfer from Columbia State CC, and Jr. Zach Messer (.378, 14 HR, 56 RBI) from Walters State CC who both figure to start.

Mercer

2009 Season: (23-23, 12-15)

Nickname: Bears

Head Coach: Craig Gibson

Location: Macon, GA

Vitals: .302 BA, 60 HR, .370 OBP, .965 Fld. %…6.39 ERA, 2 CG, 7 SVs, 346 K, 183 BB, .302 Opp. BA

Big Offense: Mercer loses top hitter Steven Karwatt (.374, 10 HR, 43 RBI), but do return the five other guys who hit over .300, including Sr. INF Michael Langley (.358, 7 HR, 27 RBI) and So. INF Jacob Tanis (.340, 11 HR, 35 RBI), who was named a Freshman All-American by Louisville Slugger.  Pitching wise Jr. RHP closer J.T. Odom (5-5, 3.88 ERA, 3 SVs) returns as does Sr. RHP Lath Guyer (2-4, 5.55 ERA, 76 K).

Home in Dixie: Mercer hosts 18 of their first 21 games with only trips to Tallahassee to play Florida A&M and Atlanta to face Georgia State the only road trips.  Mercer will not play north of Nashville, TN all season long while playing games in only four states (Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina).

North Florida

2009 Season: (23-31, 15-15)

Nickname: Ospreys

Head Coach: Dusty Rhodes

Location: Jacksonville, FL

Vitals: .295 BA, 59 HR, .377 OBP, .948 Fld. %…5.78 ERA, 6 CG, 9 SVs, 381 K, 183 BB, .296 Opp. BA

The American Dream: Dusty Rhodes announced that this will be his final season at the helom of North Florida.  Rhodes started the program in 1988 and has built the team from scratch.  He should win his 900th game at UNF this season, playing on the newly named Dusty Rhodes Field at Harmon Stadium.

Foundation: North Florida’s lineup will center around Sr. OF Preston Hale (.371, 10 HR, 43 RBI) who led the Ospreys in batting average, slugging percentage, runs, hits, HR, and RBI.  Hale was a 2nd-team All-conference performer in 2009 and enters 2010 a unanimous selection to the preseason All-Atlantic Sun team.

Stetson

2009 Season: (27-30, 16-14)

Nickname: Hatters

Head Coach: Pete Dunn

Location: DeLand, FL

Vitals: .314 BA, 60 HR, .395 OBP, .951 Fld. %…5.85 ERA, 1 CG, 9 SVs, 383 K, 223 BB, .305 Opp. BA


Poised for a Run:
Stetson returns 19 letterwinners and 7 starters from last season’s 5th place team.  Leading the offense will be Sr. DH Aaron Crittenden (.339, 13 HR, 66 RB) and So. 3B Mark Jones (.363, 82 H, .518 Slg. %).   Crittenden is a preseason All-conference pick this season, while Jones earned Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors last season.

Pitching Rotation: The Hatters will have a much different weekend rotation this season with So. RHP Lindsey Caughel (4-3, 6.30 ERA, 41 K) the only returner.  The other spots will be filled with two pitchers that missed last season with injuries.  R-Jr. RHP Justin Dechert (5.51 ERA, SV) and R-So. RHP Will Dorsey (2-1, 3.72 ERA, SV) will fill out the rotation.

USC Upstate

2009 Season: (17-37, 7-23)

Nickname: Spartans

Head Coach: Matt Fincher

Location: Spartanburg, SC

Vitals: .283 BA, 18 HR, .358 OBP, .964 Fld. %…7.81 ERA, 1 CG, 7 SVs, 345 K, 296 BB, .322 Opp. BA

Marching On: USC-Upstate enters its third season in Division I, still making the transition to the higher level.  After winning 17 conference games in 2008, they fell off to just 7 wins in 2009 finishing in last place.  This season they look for improvement behind 17 returning lettermen including 7 pitchers.

Key Returners: Jr. RHP Matt Branham (2-5, 4.39 ERA, 82 K) is back to lead the pitching staff, while Sr. 1B/C Jimmy Tanner (.354, 15 doubles, 34 RBI) the top hitter for the Spartans last year will once again power the lineup.

Silver Spartans: This year marks the 25th season for baseball at the school.

2010 Atlantic Sun Predicitons

2010 Champion: Florida Gulf Coast

2010 Player of the Year: Preston Hale—North Florida

2010 Pitcher of the Year: Chris Sale—Florida Gulf Coast

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