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2012 CBD Season Preview: Sun Belt (Part 1)

College Baseball Daily continues our series of Conference Previews today with the Sun Belt Conference. Here is the first part of the two part preview.

Florida Atlantic: 32-25; 17-13

This season will be Coach John McCormack’s fourth with the Owls, and after finishing fifth in the conference, a chance to start fresh. Junior RHP RJ Alvarez (5.23 ERA), one of this year’s top draft prospects will take his place in the bullpen, along with senior closer Hugh Adams (3.44 ERA). Adams was named as both a first team All-South Central Region selection and a first team All-Sun Belt Conference selection last year after recording 10 saves on the season.

Senior captain and RHP Ryan Garton (5.17 ERA) was the team’s number one pitcher last season, posting a 5-4 record. Senior captain reliever Ahmed Garcia (3.92 ERA) will be another dependable arm for FAU. Junior RHP Mike Sylvestri adds more depth and experience, making FAU’s pitching its strong point.

Senior captain and outfielder Alex Hudak has consistently been named one of the team’s strongest leaders, and was named a second team All-Sun Belt Conference selection after being a main offensive leader in lineup with a .360 avg. Junior infielder Kyle Newton has the potential to be the most valuable newcomer this season, boasting a .360 avg. after transferring from South Florida CC where he earned all-conference and second team all-state honors.

Redshirt freshman LHP Bo Logan will add even more depth to the already impressive bullpen. Also adding to the bullpen will be transfers RHP Jeremy Strawn (second team all-state honors) and RHP Mike Sylvestri (conference defensive player of the year). Freshman infielder Mitch Morales will be one to watch. Morales was a Washington Nationals selection in 2011, drafted in the 42nd round.

Louisiana- Monroe: 24-30; 9-21

After finishing last in the conference last year, ULM has a long way to climb. Senior first baseman Joey Rapp (first team All-Sun Belt) will be a strong leader. Rapp finished last season with a .318 avg. and .438 on-base percentage. Rapp was drafted in the 41st round in 2009 and the 28th round in 2010. Senior second baseman Caleb Clowers (Rawlings Gold Glove winner 2011) committed only one error last season, giving him a .996 fielding percentage, as well as boasting a .287 batting average. Senior outfielder Les Aulds led the Warhawk’s offense with a .339 avg. and had 24 stolen bases in 30 attempts.

Senior LHP Kendall Thamm will be a key player in the rotation. Despite and 0-5 record as a starter, Thamm maintained a 5.11 ERA and 34 strikeout in 61.2 innings. Junior LHP Randy Zeigler is expected to have a great season after holding on to a 5.04 ERA last year.

Redshirt senior RHP Wil Browning made only five appearances last season before an injury kept him from playing the rest of the season. In 2010, Browning posted a 4.87 ERA over 44.1 innings, and was named Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week after his debut performance. Browning is expected to be back and healthy for this spring, and will be a strong addition to the bullpen.

Junior RHP Shelby Aulds will be an important addition to the bullpen, with a 4.83 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 54 innings of work last season.

Junior Corben Green, who missed most of last season due to a torn ACL is ready to be back in the starting lineup, and should be a strong leader for the offense. Freshman Justin Stawchyny will bring a fresh spot to the lineup, and junior transfer Brandon Alexander (drafted 29th round in 2009), will be a strong force in the field.  Freshman RHP Alex Hermeling and junior RHP Cale Wine will add much-needed depth to the bullpen.

Middle Tennessee: 18-37; 9-21

Junior RHP Daniel Palo will once again be a key player for the Blue Raiders, after 13 starts last season, recording a 5.83 ERA. Hunter Adkins, junior RHP posted a 5.55 ERA last season in just over 86 innings, and is expected to be a dominant force on the mound this spring. Re-entering the bullpen after an injury last season will be redshirt freshman Keaton Baker (3.18 ERA). Baker only threw 5.2 innings last season, but is healthy and should be a bright spot for MTSU this spring.

Sophomore pitcher Paul Mittura led the team last season with 29 appearances (two starts.) Mittura recorded a 4.53 ERA over 51.2 innings of work, and had two saves. Sophomore Cody Tollison (6.41 ERA) will also be vital in the bullpen. Junior pitcher Jonathan Cisco will be key, boasting a 2.98 ERA through 60.1 innings, as well as hitting .360 with 32 RBI last year. Filling out the pitching staff will be freshman Jonathan Frebis and LHP Nathan Foriest, who didn’t play last season due to a Tommy John surgery.

Senior outfielder Justin Guidry led the team with a .349 avg. and 39 runs scored last season, and will be looked to as an offensive leader this spring. Junior infielder Ethan Williams (first team All-State, Northeast Super 22 Team, Conference Player of the Year) will be a huge part of MTSU’s lineup this spring.

Arkansas- Little Rock: 24-34; 10-20

After winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament last season, but finishing eighth in the standings, UALR is coming back with something to prove.

Senior infielder Greg Garcia (Sun Belt All-Tournament Team, Prime Time Player of the Week) hopes to continue being a leader in the offense, finishing last season with a .315 avg. Nick Rountree (first team All-Conference) should be a standout player, continuing in his roles as catcher, designated hitter and right fielder. Rountree finished the season with a .277 avg. and led the Trojans with seven home runs. Junior utility player Myles Parma led the team last year with a .350 batting average and a .439 on-base percentage, and will be a huge offensive player to UALR again this spring.

Senior centerfielder Cameron Bentley will be returning this season as a reliable offensive and defensive player. Bentley showcased a .975 fielding percentage, as well as batting .280 on the year with 10 doubles, 31 runs scored, and a team-high 12 stolen bases last season. Junior newcomer Chris Burk (second team All-ACCAC Conference, second team All-Region I honors) should be another strong offensive player, hitting .337 last year at Central Arizona College, with 33 RBI and 35 runs scored. Burk also boasted a .985 fielding percentage. Junior catcher Blake Johnson will be a huge player for the team offensively. Johnson (two-time first team All-Conference) hit .419 his freshman year and .331 last season, with 15 home runs and 77 RBI over two years.

Junior RHP Chance Cleveland will be making his debut for the Trojans this season, and bringing much-needed depth to the UALR pitching staff. Cleveland earned a school-record 17 saves his sophomore year at Crowder College last year, and recorded a 2.25 ERA over 32 innings, with 43 strikeouts.

2012 Preseason All-Sun Belt Baseball Team

Tyler Ray (Troy, Senior, SP)

Justin Hageman (WKU, Sophomore, SP)

Tanner Perkins (WKU, Junior, SP)

Hugh Adams (Florida Atlantic, Senior, RP)

Mason McVay (FIU, RS-Junior, RP)

Mike Albaladejo (Florida Atlantic, Senior, Catcher)

Mike Martinez (FIU, Senior, 1B)

Caleb Clowers (Louisiana-Monroe, Senior, 2B)

Logan Kirkland (South Alabama, Sophomore, 2B)

Tyler Hannah (Troy, Senior, SS)

Hank LaRue (Middle Tennessee, Sophomore, 3B)

Alex Hudak (Florida Atlantic, Senior, OF)

Pablo Bermudez (FIU, Senior, OF)

Justin Guidry (Middle Tennessee, Senior, OF)

Rudy Flores (FIU, Junior, DH)