FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
NEW ORLEANS – Middle Tennessee, the defending Sun Belt Conference regular season and tournament champion, has been tabbed the preseason favorite to win the 2010 league title in a vote of the league’s head coaches. The Blue Raiders received eight of 11 first-place votes from the coaches.
MT is led by junior Bryce Brentz, the reigning SBC Player of the Year and the 2010 SBC Preseason Player of the Year, and Kenneth Roberts, the 2010 SBC Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Both Brentz and Roberts were first-team All-SBC selections a season ago as they led the Blue Raiders to a 44-18 and its 14th NCAA appearance.
Brentz led the Blue Raiders and the nation in batting average (.465), slugging percentage (.930), and total bases (214). Including the three categories he led the Blue Raiders in, the standout slugger also reset school records in home runs (28), hits (107), and runs (79).
Roberts, a senior, is a first-team Preseason All-SBC selection in 2010 after leading the Blue Raiders and SBC in wins last year on the hill with an 11-1 record. The 2009 Sun Belt Tournament Most Outstanding Player had a 3.04 earned run average in ’09, striking out 62 batters in 16 appearances.
Joining Brentz and Roberts on the Preseason All-SBC team is third-baseman Tyler Burnett. He batted .344 in ’09 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs.
Following MT on the coaches poll is WKU, also a 2009 NCAA Tournament participant. The Hilltoppers compiled a 44-20 record winning 21 games in the SBC. WKU received two first-place votes in the coaches poll.
WKU is led by seniors Matt Rice (catcher) and Matt Ridings (starting pitcher), both Preseason All-SBC selections. In fact, WKU has the most student-athletes on the preseason team with four. Joining Rice and Ridings are seniors Bart Carter (relief pitcher) and second-baseman Matt Payton.
Rice led the Hilltoppers in hitting with a .339 average, and was second on the team in RBIs with 72. Rice is a first team selection on the NCBWA preseason All-American list. Ridings led WKU in wins last year with eight in 19 appearances. He pitched 102.1 innings last year and struck out 93 batters.
FIU was picked to finish third in 2010 by the coaches and return 20 lettermen from last year’s squad that was 34-23 a season ago, finishing fourth in the SBC. The Panthers are led by senior first baseman Tim Jobe who hit .362 in ’09 with 10 home runs and 48 RBIs.
The Troy Trojans were picked to finish fourth in the SBC, followed by Louisiana-Lafayette who was picked fifth by the coaches and earned one first-place vote.
Louisiana-Monroe was picked to finished sixth in 2010 by the coaches and return a wealth of talent as they look to make a trip back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000. Boomer Blanchard, a Preseason All-SBC selection (shortstop), leads the Warhawks. The 2009 SBC Newcomer of the Year batted .351 last year with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs.
Florida Atlantic and South Alabama were picked to finished seventh and eighth, respectively, followed by New Orleans at No. 9. The Jaguars placed two on the Preseason All-SBC team, in seniors Lance Baxter (relief pitcher) and Adam Heisler (outfield).
Heisler, a ’09 second team All-SBC selection, finished fifth in the conference in batting average (.390), but led the league with 50 hits in conference play. Baxter was the Jaguars best pitcher last season compiling a 3-3 record in 21 appearances with a 3.74 earned run average and six saves.
Arkansas State, which is picked to finish tenth out of 11 teams, placed two on the Preseason All-SBC team in juniors Todd Baumgartner (outfield) and Murray Watts (designated hitter).
UALR, managed by second year head coach, Scott Norwood, welcomes a roster loaded with 24 newcomers.
2010 SBC Coaches Poll (first place votes) – as voted on by the league’s head coaches
1. Middle Tennessee (8), 114 pts
2. WKU (2), 103 pts
3. FIU, 94 pts
4. Troy, 90 pts
5. Louisiana-Lafayette (1), 81 pts
6. Louisiana-Monroe, 57 pts
7. Florida Atlantic, 51 pts
8. South Alabama, 47 pts
9. New Orleans, 40 pts
10. Arkansas State, 32 pts
11. UALR, 17 pts
2010 All-SBC Preseason Baseball Team – as voted on by the league’s head coaches
SP – Kenneth Roberts (Middle Tennessee, Sr.)
SP – Matt Ridings (WKU, Sr.)
RP – Lance Baxter (South Alabama, Sr.)
RP – Bart Carter (WKU, Sr.)
C – Matt Rice (WKU, Sr.)
1B – Tim Jobe (FIU, Sr.)
2B – Matt Payton (WKU, Sr.)
SS – Boomer Blanchard (Louisiana-Monroe, Sr.)
3B – Tyler Burnett (Middle Tennessee, Jr.)
OF – Todd Baumgartner (Arkansas State, Jr.)
OF – Bryce Brentz (Middle Tennessee, Jr.)
OF – Adam Heisler (South Alabama, Sr.)
DH – Murray Watts (Arkansas State, Jr.)
Preseason Player of the Year
Bryce Brentz (Middle Tennessee, Jr.)
Pitcher of the Year
Kenneth Roberts (Middle Tennessee, Sr.)