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Coastal Carolina slated to win Big South

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Coastal Carolina University’s baseball team has been unanimously voted the Big South Conference’s preseason favorite, as voted by the League’s Head Baseball Coaches and Sports Information Directors, it was announced today by the Conference office. In addition, Chanticleers’ junior outfielder David Sappelt (Saxapahaw, N.C.) has been voted the Conference’s Preseason Player of the Year, while junior teammate Bobby Gagg (Hamburg, N.J.) was voted Preseason Pitcher of the Year by the panel.

Coastal received all 16 first-place votes and the maximum 128 points to win the Big South in 2008. The Chanticleers, coming off their second 50-win season and No. 1 NCAA Regional seeding in three seasons, are led by 13-year head coach Gary Gilmore — the Big South’s second-winningest baseball coach with a record of 456-264. Coastal Carolina returns 15 letterwinners from last year’s 50-13 squad (17-4 in Big South play) that hosted the 2007 Myrtle Beach Regional. The Chanticleers enter the 2008 campaign ranked 19th in the preseason Ping! Baseball poll, as well as 30th by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), 37th by Collegiate Baseball and 44th in the Perfect Game Crosschecker preseason ranking.

Coastal Carolina finished ahead of VMI in the preseason poll, as the Keydets collected 97 points to edge out third-place Liberty by one point. Winthrop was picked fourth with 88 points, while High Point finished fifth in the voting with 61 points. UNC Asheville received 56 points for sixth-place, while Charleston Southern and Radford tied for seventh-place in the preseason poll with 25 points each.

Sappelt, last year’s Big South Player of the Year and First-Team All-Conference selection, has already been named to the All-Ping! Baseball Preseason First Team and the Louisville Slugger Preseason All-America Third Team in 2008. Last season he batted .359 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI in addition to 99 hits, a .580 slugging percentage and .410 on-base percentage in earning Third-Team All-America honors by Collegiate Baseball. Sappelt, who also earned recognition on the All-Ping! Baseball Third Team in 2007, broke Coastal’s single-season hits record with 99, a mark that also led the Big South. He had 28 multi-hit games and 12 multi-RBI performances. In Conference Games, Sappelt batted .348 and slugged .707 percent.

Radford infielder Alex Gregory was second to Sappelt in the voting with one first-place vote and eight points, followed by UNC Asheville’s Kevin Mattison and Liberty’s Garrett Young (four points each).

Gagg was the Big South’s Pitcher of the Year last season after going 12-2 with a 2.57 earned run average and 84 strikeouts. He has been named a 2008 preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA, and has been named a candidate for the Brooks Wallace Award. Gagg received Second-Team All-America honors by Collegiate Baseball in 2007 and was the League’s lone 12-game winner on the mound. Gagg also earned Second-Team All-Atlantic Region by the ABCA and was named to both the All-Big South Tournament Team and the All-Myrtle Beach Regional Team. He earned the win over VCU June 2 in the Myrtle Beach Regional. Gagg received 11 first-place votes and 24 points in the League’s preseason voting, ahead of VMI’s Michael Bowman (14 points, three first-place votes).

The 2008 Big South baseball season begins Friday, February 22 with all eight teams in action. The first Conference meeting is set for the weekend of March 21-23, while the Conference Championship Tournament is slated for May 20-24 at Dan Daniel Memorial Park in Danville, Va. Liberty University will serve as host.

2008 Big South Conference Preseason Baseball Poll (combined votes)

Rk Team (first-place votes) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Points
1. Coastal Carolina (16) 128 — — — — — — — 128
2. VMI — 35 48 10 4 — — — 97
3. Liberty — 42 30 20 4 — — — 96
4. Winthrop — 35 12 30 8 3 — — 88
5. High Point — — — 15 28 18 — — 61
6. UNC Asheville — — 6 5 20 21 4 — 56
T-7. Charleston Southern — — — — — 6 10 9 25
T-7. Radford — — — — — — 18 7 25

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