Eleven Southland Teams Usher in 2010 Season on Friday

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE

Choice The 47th season of Southland Conference baseball gets underway Friday when 11 teams hit the diamond. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will be the first league team to play this season when they play host to Prairie View Friday at 2 p.m. There will be five afternoon games and six evening games on the opening day of the 2010 season. UTSA is the only team not to open its season Friday. The Roadrunners throw out their first pitch Saturday at 2 p.m. against Houston Baptist. All 12 Southland teams have games on Saturday, including two – Lamar, UT Arlington – that will play two. There are only 10 games on Sunday.

A&M-Corpus Christi will also play the first conference series of the season when it visits Texas State, the defending regular-season champion, March 5-7. The other 10 teams will not start league play until the following weekend, March 12-14.

Southland Conference Tournament Returns to Neutral Site

The 2010 Southland Conference Baseball Tournament will be played May 26-29 at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas. The top eight teams, based on win-loss percentage, will qualify for the tournament, which will play in a double-elimination format in two brackets, similar to the College World Series.

Texas State Picked to Repeat Southland Title

Texas State is favored to win its fourth Southland Conference regular-season baseball championship by a vote of the league’s head coaches and sports information director. The Bobcats received five first-place votes and 114 points in the coaches’ poll and five first-place votes and 112 points in the SID poll. Texas State returns 19 letterwinners, five starters and nine pitchers from a Bobcat squad that won its first regular-season title since 1997 and posted its best record in program history with 41 overall wins and 24 league wins. Sam Houston State, the three-time defending Southland tournament champions, was picked to finish a close second to Texas State. The Bearkats received four first-place votes and 107 points in the coaches’ poll and four first-place votes and 103 points in the SID poll. The remaining first-place votes went to Lamar, which came in third in both polls with three first-place votes and 105 points in the coaches’ poll and two first-place votes and 100 points in the SID poll. Less than 12 points separate the top three teams in both polls.

In the Preseason Polls

No Southland Conference teams are ranked in any of the four major preseason polls (Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, USA Today/ESPN and NCBWA), though Texas State and Southeastern Louisiana received votes in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

Central Arkansas Eligible for Postseason

Central Arkansas is a full-fledged NCAA Division I member this season in the sports of baseball, which is one of two sports fast-tracked by the school. That means the Bears are eligible for the conference and NCAA tournaments this year. A transitioning university is permitted to fast-track one men’s sport and one women’s sport in its final year of transition. The Bears were also eligible this past fall in women’s soccer. All 17 sports sponsored at UCA will become full NCAA Division I members next season.

Four of the Conference’s Five Individual Award Winners Return in 2009

Lamar sophomore pitcher Eric Harrington, the 2009 Southland Conference Freshman of the Year, highlights a talented list of players on the 2010 preseason all-conference teams. He is the only returning player among the major award winners last season.

A native of Groves, Texas, Harrington finished the season with an 8-1 record and led the Southland with a 3.01 earned run average. In 14 starts, Harrington, a first-team all-conference selection last year, tallied eight wins ranked second in the league. In a team-high 83.2 innings pitched, the right hander recorded 63 strikeouts, which ranked 10th in the conference. Only 28 of the 40 runs he allowed were earned, which is the second fewest allowed by a league pitcher. He limited opponents to a .286 batting average.

Other first-team all-conference selections returning from last season include Sam Houston State junior second baseman Braeden Riley, UTSA senior third baseman Lance Brown and UT Arlington junior outfielder Michael Choice.

The full list of preseason all-conference selections appears within this release.

Franklin, Sheppard Named to NCBWA Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List

Southeastern Louisiana right-handed relief pitcher Chris Franklin and Northwestern State right-handed closer Chad Sheppard have been named to the preseason watch list for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year.

Franklin, a native of Oneonta, Ala., posted a 5-2 record with a school-record 12 saves and a 2.60 earned run average in 2009. He held opponents scoreless in 18 of 24 relief appearances and worked more than one inning in 12 outings.

Sheppard, who hails from Enterprise, La., tied a school record last season when he saved 10 games to go along with a 4-1 record and a 2.34 earned run average. He appeared in a team-high 23 games, tossed 34.2 innings and struck out 43 batters while holding opponents to a low .219 batting average.

Former Sam Houston State pitcher Luke Prihoda won the Stopper of the Year award in 2007.

UTA’s Choice Named to Watch List for Golden Spikes Award

UT Arlington outfielder Michael Choice has been named to the watch list for the Golden Spikes Award. Choice enters his junior season with the Mavericks as the program’s all-time career leader in hitting (.396) and is coming off a sophomore season where he batted .413 with a team-leading 11 home runs and drove in 52 runs.

Last summer, Choice became first player in school history and the second player from the Southland Conference to play for the USA Baseball (Collegiate) National Team. He batted .350 (21-for-60) with 13 runs, three doubles, three home runs and 13 RBI and had a .453 on-base percentage and .550 slugging percentage.

Choice has been named to four preseason All-America teams including, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (third team), Baseball America (second team), PING! (second team) and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper (second team).

Preseason Honors & Recognition

Six different Southland Conference players garnered preseason All-America recognition, including three players who appear on watch lists for national awards.

Michael Choice, UT Arlington (OF)

Golden Spikes Award Watch List

Second-Team AA, Baseball America

Second-Team AA, PING!

Second-Team AA, Collegiate Baseball

Third-Team AA, NCBWA

Chris Franklin, Southeastern La. (RP)

NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List

Second-Team AA, NCBWA

Eric Harrington, Lamar (SP)

Honorable Mention AA, PING!

Braeden Riley, Sam Houston State (2B)

Third-Team AA, NCBWA

Chad Sheppard, Northwestern State (RP)

NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List

Third-Team AA, PING!

Tyler Sibley, Texas State (OF)

Third-Team AA, PING!

Scouting the Southland Conference Teams…

Central Arkansas (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

Central Arkansas is a full-fledged NCAA Division I member this season … the 2009 Bears were 22-30 overall and 10-21 in conference play … OF Tye Throneberry led the Bears in hitting at .374 … UCA loses six starters on offense, including all-conference picks 3B Jonathan Yerby and RF Dillon Smith, who combined for 25 of 51 home runs … SS Bobby Pritchett, who hit .327 last year, was also 4-5 with 5 saves on the mound … UCA returns nine of its top 10 pitchers … P Reece Cross led the league with a .227 batting average against … he was 4-4 with 54 strikeouts and should move into the weekend rotation.

Lamar (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

The Cardinals were 38-22 last year and 20-13 in the Southland for a fourth-place finish and advanced to the semifinals of the league tournament … among the departed are 2B Brian Taylor, who batted a team-best .371 last season; LF Tyler Link, who hit .369 and scored a school-record 73 runs, and RHP Ricky Testa, who posted an 8-3 record and 4.13 ERA … RHP Eric Harrington, who earned SLC Freshman of the Year honors after posting an 8-1 record and 3.01 ERA last spring, will get the start in the Cardinals’ season opener … Jim Gilligan enters his 34th season as Lamar’s head coach with a 1,142-717 record.

McNeese State (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

McNeese State finished 21-30 overall and 10-22 in Southland action … OF Lee Orr batted .301 and led the 2009 team in home runs (15), RBI (57) and stolen bases (18-of-20) last year, when he earned all-conference and freshman All-America honors … IF Jace Peterson and P/OF Justin Beitzel were members of the 2009 McNeese football team that produced a league championship … Peterson started 17 of his 31 games at 2B and led the team with a .366 average … he had 26 hits in 71 trips to the plate and stole 13 bases … Beitzel, who has played 1B and OF during his career, will be used as a pitcher in 2010.

Nicholls (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

The Colonels return starters Tyler Minto (3-3, 4.26 ERA) and Jarrett Dunnam (3-8, 3.80 ERA), and add Clint Dempster, the 2009 NJCAA strikeout champion at Mississippi Gulf Coast CC … however, Nicholls, will need to replace its top three hitters from 2009 … OF Chris Murrill (.344) was drafted, OF Josh Swenson (.299) graduated and OF Scott Moseley, a preseason second-team all-conference selection, continues to rehab from offseason hip surgery … coach Chip Durham, now in his fifth season, will try to guide the team to it first Southland tournament appearance in 10 years.

Northwestern State (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

The Demons finished 26-26 overall and were 18-13 in conference play … Friday-night starter Ryan Zimmerman, who was 3-3 with a 5.53 ERA, returns as does Heath Hennigan, who missed last season, but had a 3-4 record and 3.98 in 2008 … Chad Sheppard will be the closer and is on the preseason watch list for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year … he was 4-1 with a school record 10 saves while striking out 43 in 34 2/3 innings … 2B Chase Lyles, who hit .362 with 14 home runs and 47 RBI last season will move to 3B … SS Trent Grondin is a preseason all-conference pick who hit .324 last season.

Sam Houston State (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

Sam Houston won the league tournament for the third year in a row … the Bearkats have never lost a game in the league tournament under coach Mark Johnson, who begins his fourth season in Huntsville … Sam Houston was 36-24 overall and 18-14 in the Southland … the 2009 Bearkats produced a .328 team batting average … Sam Houston came from behind to win in 24 of their 36 games … only 10 lettermen return, including four pitchers, four infielders, a catcher and a designated hitter … 2B Braeden Riley, who led the nation with 111 total hits in 2009, is an NCBWA preseason All-American and hit .387.

Southeastern Louisiana (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

The Lions were 37-22 overall and finished second with a 21-12 conference record … they totaled their most overall victories since 1993 and their most league wins since 1998 … Southeastern returns seven position starters and seven pitchers … Cass Hargis, Joe Sparacino, Phillip Freeman and Josh Cryer will anchor the offense for fifth-year coach Jay Artigues … the Lions yielded the second-lowest batting average against among league schools, led the conference with 18 saves, were third in innings pitched and fourth in strikeouts … Chris Franklin is on the preseason watch list for NCBWA Stopper of the Year.

Stephen F. Austin (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

The Lumberjacks were 23-32 and 14-18 last year in coach Johnny Cardenas’ first year at the helm … SFA lost 18 players off last year’s roster including all three all-league players in Erich Lehmann, Richard Folmer and Sean Meyers … SFA welcomes 23 newcomers to a team that made its second appearance in the conference tournament last year … Jared West and Brett Rogers each made 15 appearances on the mound a year ago … West finished the season as the ‘Jacks’ Saturday starter, picking up four wins and holding hitters to a .279 average … Zach Gardner led all Southland shortstops with a .353 batting average.

UT Arlington (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

UT Arlington was 30-26 overall and 19-13 last season … OF Michael Choice has been named to four preseason All-American teams, including NCBWA, Collegiate Baseball, PING! and Baseball America … Choice has also been named a first-team preseason all-conference selection … the College Baseball Blog tabbed Choice as the No. 13 projected player in the country … he enters the season with a career-long 12-game hit streak … in the final 12 games of the 2009 season, Choice batted .500 (23-for-46) with four doubles, two home runs and 13 RBI … for the season, he batted .412 with 52 RBI and 11 home runs.

UTSA (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

UTSA was 32-25 overall and 20-12 in the Southland last season … the Roadrunners have won at least 32 contests and 20 league games each of the last four seasons … preseason first-team all-conference selections DH Brett Aguilar, 3B Lance Brown and 2B Ryan Hutson return … Brown (.372 BA, 40 RBI) will make the move to shortstop … Hutson led the league with 17 home runs and .719 slugging percentage … LHP Matt Crocker (6-3, 3.46 ERA) will be the team’s Friday-night starter in 2010 … Zach Calhoon, the Southland all-time saves leader (25), will miss the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

The Islanders were 18-38 overall and 9-24 in conference play a season ago and missed the conference tournament at Whataburger Field in its own hometown … a handful of returnees and newcomers on the field and improved depth in the pitching staff will fuel the team’s tournament bid in 2010 … Jeramie Marek led the Islanders with a .335 average … he will be joined by Trey Hernandez, a preseason first-team all-conference selection … he slumped to .236 a season ago after hitting .339 as a freshman, but belted 12 home runs … on the mound, Brandon Orr and Roy Ferdin return as weekend starters.

Texas State (0-0, 0-0 Southland)

Texas State was 41-17 last season and claimed their first Southland Conference championship with a 24-7 record … the 41 wins were the most in school history … the Bobcats, led by 11th-year coach Ty Harrington, the 2009 Southland coach of the year, return 19 members from last year’s team … OF Tyler Sibley will move from OF to 2B and Kyle Livingstone will move from 2B to 1B … Sibley hit .359 with 38 RBI and 10 home runs … Texas State must recover from the losses of Paul Goldschmidt, last year’s player and hitter of the year, Kane Holbrooks, the pitcher of the year, and Keith Prestridge, the newcomer of the year.