Atlantic Sun releases Preseason Coaches Poll and Team

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE

atlantic-sun-logo MACON, Ga. – The Atlantic Sun conference announced its baseball preseason coaches’ poll and all-conference honors Wednesday with FGCU earning the nod as the conference favorite.

The Eagles also cleaned up in the superlative awards with first baseman Zach Maxfield earned the preseason Player of the Year honors and Chris Sale picked up the Pitcher of the Year nod by a unanimous decision.

Chris Sale earned Pitcher of the Year honors in a unanimous vote befitting the status of the Ping!Baseball and Louisville Slugger preseason All-American. The College Baseball Blog listed Sale as the fourth-best player in the nation and as the top left-handed starting pitcher in nation. Sale earned first-team all-conference honors a season ago after posting a 7-4 record with a 2.72 ERA. The criminal justice major earned the Pitcher of the Year honor during the summer in the talent-rich Cape Cod league. Baseball America named Sale the Top Prospect in the Cape Cod league after the lefthander earned MVP honors in the league’s All-Star game.

Maxfield burst on to the A-Sun scene a season ago, leading the conference in home runs with 20 while driving in a team-high 66 run for the Eagles. The power-hitting first baseman also picked up preseason all-conference honors after earning first-team all conference honors a season ago at the designated hitter position. The Northport, Fla. native ranked as one of only four underclassmen on the 2009 all-conference squad joining his teammates Chris Sale, Tim Roberson and ETSU’s Paul Hoilman.

Tim Roberson joins his fellow FGCU juniors on the preseason all-conference team holding the third base position. The West Palm Beach, Fla. native ranked second in the A-Sun in 2009 in home runs just one behind Maxfield. Roberson ranked fifth in the league in RBI a season ago with 18 multiple RBI games including eight contests in which he drove in three or more runs.

Robert Green rounds out the quartet of Eagles on the preseason all-conference team. Green played in all 54 games a season ago for FGCU and the junior spent 53 of those contest behind the plate for the team picked atop of the preseason coaches’ poll. Green hit 14 home runs and combined with Roberson and Maxfield total the trio hit more round trippers than three A-Sun teams in 2009.

FGCU earned the nod from coaches as the conference favorite grabbing 10 of a possible 11 first-place votes. The coaches also tabbed the Eagles as the favorite to win the postseason tournament. FGCU placed No. 25 in Ping!Baseball’s Preseason rankings and received votes in the first National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Poll and USA Today/ESPN Poll.

The coaches picked Jacksonville, the reigning conference champion, second in the preseason poll and the Dolphins also earned solid representation on the preseason All-Atlantic Sun team. Matt Loosen earned a unanimous selection after a season in which he boasted a 4-1 record with two saves and 4.16 ERA. Loosen ranked nationally in strikeouts (59th, 91) and strikeouts per nine innings (43rd, 10.24).

Chris Kaminski joins Loosen on the preseason all-conference squad as a relief pitcher. The junior posted a team-best 2.70 ERA a season ago with a record of 5-1 with eight saves and recorded 33 strikeouts in 34 innings. Chuck Opachich rounds out the Jacksonville selections as he picked up the spot at second base. The senior posted hit .377 a season a go with 42 RBI and 19 stolen bases.

Stetson took third in the preseason coaches’ poll and placed designated hitter Aaron Crittenden on the preseason team. The senior returns to the Hatters following a banner season in which he drove in 66 runs. Crittenden belted 13 home runs and amassed a .554 slugging percentage.

Kennesaw State enters the preseason poll fourth, followed by UNF in fifth. Both the Owls and Ospreys completed their transition to Division I after last season and for the first time, can compete for spots in the Atlantic Sun Championships, and thus a chance at earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. Mercer and Lipscomb tied for sixth. The coaches pick Belmont eighth, ETSU ninth, Campbell tenth and USC Upstate eleventh.

Lipscomb Josh Smith rounds out the pitching rotation on the preseason squad. Smith ranked second on the Bisons in ERA behind departed first-round draft pick Rex Brothers. The senior ranked nationally in strikeouts (32nd, 101) and in hits allowed per nine innings (29th, 7.1) in 2009. Smith posted a 3.86 ERA a season ago allowing only 38 earned runs in over 88 innings.

Tyler Stubblefield from Kennesaw State completes the infield filling in the shortstop position. The senior posted a .300 batting average a season ago to for the Owls. Stubblefield smacked seven home runs and drove in 27 runs.

Belmont’s Dylan Craig picked up preseason honors from the coaches after a freshman campaign which saw him rank second in the nation in triples. Craig earned A-Sun Freshman of the Year honors a season ago and Ping!Baseball named him to their Freshman All-American team. The Signal Mountain, Tenn. native also finished nationally ranked in hits (36th, 92), batting average (82nd, .397) and sacrifice flies (14th, eight)
UNF’s Preston Hale, a unanimous selection, joins Craig in the outfield after posting a .371 average to lead the Ospreys a season ago. The senior started all 53 games in 2009 driving in 43 runs, hitting 10 home runs while slugging .593. Hale picked up second-team all-conference honors at the end of last season after leading his team in multiple hit games and tying for the team lead in multi-RBI games.

Josh Whitaker from Kennesaw State completes the outfield after appearing in 22 games and making 15 starts for the Owls a season ago. Whitaker hit .379 with four home runs and 25 RBI.
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The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.

2010 A-Sun Preseason Coaches Poll

# School (1st Place Vote) Points

1.  FGCU (10)  120

2.  Jacksonville 106

3.  Stetson 82

4.  Kennesaw State 81

5.  UNF 69

T-6.  Mercer (1) 62

T-6.  Lipscomb 62

8.  Belmont 53

9.  ETSU 45

10. Campbell 34

11.  USC Upstate 12

Tournament Winner – FGCU

2010 Atlantic Sun Preseason All-Conference

Pos. Player (Yr.) School

SP Matt Loosen (Jr.) Jacksonville

SP Chris Sale (Jr.) FGCU

SP Josh Smith (Sr.) Lipscomb

RP Chris Kaminski (Jr.)  Jacksonville

C Robert Green (Jr.)  FGCU

1B Zach Maxfield (Jr.) FGCU

2B Chuck Opachich (Sr.) JU

3B Tim Roberson (Jr.) FGCU

SS Tyler Stubblefield (Sr.)  Kennesaw State

DH Aaron Crittenden (Sr.) Stetson

OF Dylan Craig (So.) Belmont

OF Preston Hale (Sr.) UNF

OF Josh Whitaker (Jr.) Kennesaw State

Player of the Year: Zach Maxfield, FGCU

Pitcher of the Year: *Chris Sale, FGCU

* – Unanimous Selection