FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Louisville Cardinals enter the season as the unanimous 2014 Preseason American Athletic Conference favorite after advancing to the College World Series for the second time in school history last season. Louisville received eight first-place votes and 64 points in the coaches’ preseason poll. Three teams tied for second place, as UCF, UConn and Houston all received 47 points.
The league’s nine coaches selected Louisville outfielder Jeff Gardner as the American Preseason Player of the Year, while UConn’s Carson Cross and USF’s Jimmy Herget were chosen as Preseason Pitchers of the Year.
Louisville was tabbed No. 8 in the first national preseason poll released by Collegiate Baseball. The Cardinals, who set a school record last season with 51 victories, placed six players on the Preseason All-Conference Team. Pitcher Kyle Funkhouser was chosen following a 2013 season win which he had a 5-1 record, 2.14 ERA, and 55 strikeouts in 54.2 innings. Pitcher Anthony Kidston was also recognized after a 1.31 ERA, a 5-0 record, and a 0.98 WHIP. Nick Burdi claimed the relief pitcher spot, as the NCBWA and Louisville Slugger Preseason First Team All-America pick recorded 16 saves and a 0.76 ERA as the Cardinals’ closer last season.
Gardner was selected as the Preseason Player of the Year and a Preseason All-Conference outfielder. Gardner hit .337 with nine home runs and 43 RBI in 2013. Sutton Whiting is the Preseason All-Conference shortstop after he hit .308 with 30 RBI and nine steals. Cole Sturgeon (.339, 1HR, 33 RBI) was also added named as a Preseason All-Conference outfielder.
Houston was 36-22 in 2013 and tied for second place in the preseason poll, receiving one first-place vote. Sophomore Justin Montemayor, who was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year after leading the Cougars in batting average (.329), hits (73), runs scored (42) and home runs (3) was unanimously chosen as the Preseason All-Conference third baseman.
UCF (29-30 in 2013) and UConn (35-28) both tied with Houston for second place in the preseason poll. The Knights placed Bret Gordon, who hit .316 last season, on the Preseason All-Conference team as the unanimous designated hitter. UConn was represented by Cross, who shared Preseason Pitcher of the Year honors. Cross was 9-4 with a 2.44 ERA and 86 strikeouts. The Huskies, who won the 2013 Big East title, advanced to the NCAA Regional round and took an opening win against No. 1-seeded Virginia Tech.
USF was picked fifth by the coaches after a 36-22 season that ended with a loss to Rutgers in the Big East Championship. Jimmy Herget was named Preseason Pitcher of the Year after a freshman season in which he posted a 6-2 record, 1.72 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Herget was the Big East Rookie of the Year in 2013 and earned three national Freshman All-American Honors. Nik Alonso also made the Preseason All-Conference team at second base after hitting .331 last season.
Memphis, coming off a 35-24 season, had 30 points in the preseason poll to finish sixth. Catcher Carter White was named to the Preseason All-Conference team after hitting .325 and recording a .979 fielding percentage behind the dish. Tucker Tubbs was the Preseason All-Conference selection at first base after a .327, 4 HR, 32 RBI season.
Cincinnati will be led by new head coach Ty Neal, who was previously the top assistant for Indiana and helped the Hoosiers to their first College World Series appearance in 2013. The Bearcats, who were picked seventh in the preseason poll, placed sophomore outfielder Ian Happ on the Preseason All-Conference team.
Rutgers, picked eighth in the preseason poll, was represented by outfielder Vinny Zurillo (.330, 34 RBI, .434 SLG) on the Preseason All-Conference Team. Temple was selected to finish ninth.
The inaugural season of American Athletic Conference baseball will begin on Feb. 14. The first weekend of league play is March 21-23. The 2014 American Athletic Conference Championship will be held at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., from May 21-25. The conference’s 2014 composite schedule is available online.
2014 Preseason American Athletic Conference Baseball Coaches’ Poll
Team (First-Place Votes) Points
1. Louisville (8) *64
2. UCF 47
Houston (1) 47
5. USF 34
6. Memphis 30
7. Rutgers 27
8. Cincinnati 18
9. Temple 8
Preseason American Athletic Conference Player of the Year:
Jeff Gardner, OF, Louisville
Preseason American Athletic Conference Pitchers of the Year:
Carson Cross, P, UConn
Jimmy Herget, P, USF
2014 Preseason All-Conference Team
Pos. Name, Class, School Key 2013 Stats
P Carson Cross, RJr., UConn 9-4, 2.44 ERA, 110.2 IP, 86 K, 24 BB, .246 OBA, 1.16 WHIP
P Anthony Kidston, So., Louisville 5-0, 1.31 ERA, 48.0 IP, 58 K, 22 BB, .152 OBA, 0.98 WHIP
P Kyle Funkhouser, So., Louisville 5-1, 2.14 ERA, 54.2 IP, 55 K, 25 BB, .214 OBA
P Jimmy Herget, So., USF 6-2, 1.72 ERA, 94.0 IP, 60 K, 27 BB, .193 OBA, 0.95 WHIP
RP Nick Burdi, Jr., Louisville * 3-3, 0.76 ERA, 16 SV, 35.2 IP, 62 K, 13 BB, .192 OBA, 1.08 WHIP
C Carter White, Jr., Memphis .325, 15 RBI, .412 OB%
1B Tucker Tubbs, Jr., Memphis .327, 4 HR, 32 RBI,.425 SLG%
2B Nik Alonso, RSo., USF .331, 23 RBI, .420 OB%
SS Sutton Whiting, Jr., Louisville .308, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 24 SB
3B Justin Montemayor, So., Houston * .329, 3 HR, 27 RBI
OF Jeff Gardner, Sr., Louisville .337, 9 HR, 43 RBI, 103 TB, .632 SLG%
OF Ian Happ, So., Cincinnati .322, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 25 SB
OF Cole Sturgeon, Sr., Louisville .339, 1 HR, 33 RBI, .420 OB%, 13 SB
OF Vinny Zarrilo, Jr., Rutgers .330, 34 RBI, .434 SLG%
DH Bret Gordon, Sr., UCF * .316, 1 HR, 12 RBI
* – unanimous selection
Additional players were added due to tie in voting