FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
MACON, Ga. – The Atlantic Sun’s reigning regular-season and tournament champions, FGCU and Mercer shared the top spot in the preseason coaches’ poll, the conference announced on Thursday. ETSU’s Paul Hoilman, the 2010 Player of the Year unanimously earned the preseason tag while FGCU’s all-conference starting pitcher, Richie Erath, received the Preseason Pitcher of the Year honor.
Mercer, who won its first A-Sun Championship in 27 years a season ago, returns a pair of preseason All-Atlantic Sun performers led by last season’s Tournament MVP and preseason All-American Jacob Tanis. As a sophomore in 2010, Tanis hit 22 home runs and drove in 88 runs. The 88 RBI fell one shy of the national lead and ranked as the best total in the conference in 10 years. Tanis’ teammate, Matt McCall also made the 13-man team. As an All-Freshman and All-Tournament performer, he earned seven victories on the mound for the Bears.
FGCU has claimed the regular-season crown each of its three years in the league. The Eagles boast a trio of performers on the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun squad with Erath headlining the group. Erath posted the A-Sun’s sixth-lowest ERA, 4.42, while earning seven wins and striking out 79 hitters pitching in the same rotation as all-conference hurlers Chris Sale and Pete Woodworth. The Eagles’ senior double-play combination of second baseman Mikel Alvarez and shortstop Stephen Wickens joined Tanis and Hoilman on the infield. Alvarez hit over .400 while Wickens hit. 359 with 18 stolen bases.
Hoilman returned to ETSU despite being picked by Tampa Bay in the June Draft. His presence along with Derek Trent, the league’s Preseason All-Atlantic Sun catcher helped slot the Buccaneers third in the preseason poll. After flirting with the national triple crown, Hoilman finished in the top four in 10 offensive categories. In the offseason, he won the inaugural home run derby competition at historic Rosenblatt Stadium. He stands poised to own the league’s career records for home runs, RBI, doubles and total bases by the end of the season. In addition to earning All-American honors for his offensive prowess, he landed on the prestigious CoSIDA Academic All-America team.
Last season’s tournament runner-up, Jacksonville, placed fourth in the preseason poll and like FGCU, placed three on the All-Atlantic Sun team. The Dolphins pair of sophomore outfielders, Dan Gulbransen and Adam Brett Walker make up two-thirds of the preseason outfield. Gulbransen earned the league’s Freshman of the Year award after hitting .391 and driving in 46 runs. Walker provided more power, hitting 16 home runs, and drove in 58 runs. Senior starting pitcher Matt Tomshaw rounds up Jacksonville’s representation. He went 8-2 as a junior.
Stetson placed fifth in the poll, followed by Belmont. The Bruins also put three players on the preseason team. Closer Jon Ivie, who led the conference with 10 saves and recently landed on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award watch list, earned the nod as the league’s top relief pitcher. Nate Woods joined Erath, Hoilman and Tanis as unanimous picks to the team, claiming the designated hitter position. Woods hit 20 home runs and drove in 78 runs for the Bruins. Dylan Craig joined the Dolphin teammates in the outfield after hitting .382.
The poll rounded out with UNF, Kennesaw State, Lipscomb, Campbell and USC Upstate in spots seven through 11.
The 2011 campaign begins Friday, Feb. 18 with all 11 teams in action. The season concludes with the Atlantic Sun Baseball Championships – which for the second straight year will be held on the campus of Lipscomb University at Ken Dugan Field.