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2013 Conference USA Preseason Coaches Poll and Teams

ConferenceUSALogoConference USA announced its 2013 preseason baseball awards, as chosen by the league’s nine head coaches. Rice senior infielder Christian Stringer was chosen as the preseason Player of the Year, while Owls junior right-hander Austin Kubitza was named the preseason Pitcher of the Year. Rice was chosen to win the league’s championship. The Owls have won either the regular season or tournament championship in each of its seven years as a member of C-USA.

In his first season of Division I baseball after transferring from Navarro College, Stringer took C-USA by storm in 2012. The junior second baseman batted a team-leading .343 in 59 starts, and he maintained a .389 average in C-USA league games. Stringer also led the team and ranked among the conference leaders in hits (81), runs (58) and on-base percentage (.448). He was second in walks (38) and steals (6), but his defense might have made the biggest impact to the Owls. Stringer maintained a .978 fielding percentage at second base where he turned or started 35 of the Owls’ 46 double plays.

A year ago Kubitza was a first team All-Conference USA selection after finishing with a 6-5 record and ranking second on the staff in ERA (2.69), innings pitched (80.1) and strikeouts (73). The right-hander shared the team lead in starts (15) and he held all opposing hitters to a .211 batting average. He was named the C-USA Freshman of the Year after his first Division I season in 2011 and was also the league’s preseason Pitcher of the Year last season.

Stringer and Kubitza are joined by senior OF Michael Ratterree on the preseason All-Conference USA team, giving Rice a league-high-tying three selections. Ratterree posted a .407 slugging percentage last season with 20 extra-base hits (13 doubles, one triple and six home runs). He drew a team-high 42 walks, giving him a .378 on-base percentage and also drove in 33 runs.

Southern Miss and Tulane also had three preseason all-conference selections. Senior RHP Andrew Pierce was named Conference USA Newcomer of the Year in 2012 after emerging as the ace of the Golden Eagles’ staff in his first season in Hattiesburg. He posted a 7-4 record with a 1.99 earned run average, second-lowest in C-USA. Pierce threw two complete games and was a part of three shutouts, including one in which he went the distance. He registered 96 strikeouts (second in the conference), while issuing just 16 walks. USM sophomore OF/P Mason Robbins was the Conference USA Freshman of The Year last season. He batted .330 with 11 doubles, five triples, three homers and 38 RBI. He started the season with an 18-game hitting streak and led the squad in multiple-hit games with 22 and added 10 multi-RBI contests. Sophomore Bradley Roney was chosen as the preseason relief pitcher after posting the most saves by a Golden Eagle freshman in 2012 (11). He ended the year with a 2-1 record and a 2.42 ERA, fanning 26 batters in 26 innings of work and allowed opponents to hit just .200 off of him during the campaign.

Tulane senior infielders Garrett Cannizaro and Brennan Middleton are joined on the squad by senior OF Brandon Boudreaux. Cannizaro drove in the game-winning run five times and ranked among the C-USA leaders in RBI (42, 8th). He was second on the squad in assists (121), sacrifice bunts (5) and was third in doubles (12), runs scored (42) and RBI, while boasting 21 multi-hit games and ten multi-RBI contests. Middleton earned second team All-C-USA honors in 2012 and ranked among the league leaders in batting average (team-high .357, 2nd), sacrifice bunts (11, 2nd), assists (180, 3rd), stolen bases (14, 7th) and runs scored (45, 9th). Boudreaux was the first Tulane player to be named C-USA Hitter of the Week three times in one season, boasting 20 multi-hit games and eight multi-RBI games from the leadoff spot. He reached base in 48-of-53 games, placing third in C-USA in runs scored (56) and fourth in slugging percentage (.541). Boudreaux produced 14 doubles, three triples and eight homers, while driving in 36 runs.

East Carolina and UCF each placed two players on the team. Junior infielder Jack Reinheimer and junior infielder/pitcher Drew Reynolds are the Pirates representatives. Reinheimer was the lone ECU player to start all 61 games last season, posting a .294 batting average with 36 runs scored. He was second on the team in stolen bases (9) and third in doubles (11), while adding a pair of home runs and 22 RBI. Reynolds was one of 10 finalists for the 2012 John Olerud Award, given to the nation’s top two-way player. He posted the second-best average on the team, batting .330 with three home runs, eight doubles, 24 RBI, 31 runs scored, while recording 18 multi-hit games. On the mound, he owned a 3-0 record in 21 appearances with 10 saves, ranking fourth in C-USA.

The Knights boast senior C Ryan Breen and former C-USA Freshman of the Year Chris Taladay, now a senior infielder, among the team’s members. Breen started all 57 games he appeared in last season, serving as the Knights’ primary catcher. He batted .264 with 24 RBI, eight doubles, three triples and a homer. Taladay started all 62 games for the Knights while manning third base, catching and playing in left field. He led the team with 78 hits during his junior campaign while batting .298. Taladay ranked second on the team with 49 RBI and hit five homers, eight doubles and a triple.

Houston and Memphis both had one representative, with Cougars junior OF Landon Appling and Tigers junior LHP Sam Moll rounding out the team. Appling notched a .324 batting average team-high .410 on-base percentage. He led the team with 61 hits, 32 runs scored and three homers, while driving in 26 runs. Moll’s 95.2 innings pitched ranked fourth among C-USA hurlers and he posted a 5-5 record with a 3.48 ERA. Moll had one complete game shutout and one save while earning second team all-league recognition.

Conference USA’s 18th baseball season gets underway on February 15. The conference tournament is scheduled for May 22-26 in Houston, Texas. C-USA’s nine baseball schools have produced 72 NCAA appearances and 10 College World Series teams over the past 17 seasons.

(as selected by C-USA’s head coaches)
1. Rice (7)
2. Southern Miss (1)
3. East Carolina
4. UCF
5. Tulane (1)
6. Memphis
7. Houston
8. UAB
9. Marshall
(first place votes in parentheses)
Christian Stringer, Rice (Senior, Infielder)
Austin Kubitza, Rice (Junior, Right-hander)
P Austin Kubitza Jr. Rice
P Sam Moll Jr. Memphis
P Andrew Pierce Sr. Southern Miss
RP Bradley Roney So. Southern Miss
C Ryan Breen Sr. UCF
IF Garrett Cannizaro Sr. Tulane
IF Brennan Middleton Sr. Tulane
IF Jack Reinheimer Jr. East Carolina
IF Christian Stringer Sr. Rice
IF Chris Taladay Sr. UCF
OF Landon Appling Jr. Houston
OF Brandon Boudreaux Sr. Tulane
OF Michael Ratterree Sr. Rice
OF Mason Robbins So. Southern Miss
DH/UT Drew Reynolds Jr. East Carolina

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