Baseball Tabbed as Preseason SAC Favorite


ROCK HILL, SC -- Catawba, the defending South Atlantic Conference baseball champions, has been picked by the league’s head coaches as the preseason favorite to repeat in 2014.  It was announced on Monday by the league office.

Catawba – which went 36-16 overall and 21-6 in the SAC in 2013 – received nine of the possible 11 first-place votes in the preseason poll.  The Indians have also been ranked 24th in the preseason Collegiate Baseball Newspaper national poll.  Catawba led the SAC in runs scored and ranked third in team ERA last season en route to winning the program’s second regular-season conference title in three years.  

Wingate and Tusculum – the SAC’s No. 2 and No. 3 finishers, respectively, in last year’s conference standings – tied for second in the preseason poll.  WU went 29-21 overall and 20-7 in the SAC in 2013, while Tusculum went 33-18 overall and 16-11 in the conference.  

SAC newcomer and 2013 NCAA Division II World Series participant Coker is fourth in the preseason poll.  The Cobras went 38-16 overall last season and open up 2014 ranked 25th in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll.

Also announced on Monday was the 2014 SAC preseason All-Conference Team.  Making up the first-team infield are Wingate catcher Josh Clark, Newberry first baseman Albert Baur, Catawba second baseman Julio Zubillaga, Mars Hill shortstop Evan Rogers and Newberry third baseman Ryan Cranmer, while Wingate’s Thomas Spitz, Lenoir-Rhyne’s Ivan Vieitez and Catawba’s Keaton Hawks form the first-team outfield. 

Zubillaga is a three-time Gold Glove performer at second base.  Last year, he batted .328 at the plate with 39 RBI.  Hawks, who was also an all-region pick in 2013, batted .346 with eight homers and 48 RBI.

Newberry’s Jonathan Rosenberger and the Wingate duo of Olen Little and 2013 SAC Freshman of the Year TJ Rinoski form the first-team starting rotation, and Tusculum’s John-Austin Shepard is the first-team relief pitcher.  Completing the team is Newberry’s Eric Barbieri at designated hitter. 

The preseason All-Conference Second Team consists of Newberry catcher Chas Goodwin, Coker first baseman Fico Kondla, Carson-Newman second baseman Bo Ausmus, Coker shortstop Shea Bell, and Catawba’s Paul Kronenfeld, Newberry’s Jermale Paige and Catawba’s Blake Houston in the outfield. 

Kronenfeld hit .317 in his first season at Catawba and connected on seven homers with 50 RBI.  He may see more time at first base this year.  Houston caught fire after a slow start to finish second in the league in hitting with a .391 average.

Catawba’s John Tuttle, Coker’s Andrew Goot and Wingate’s Ben Currie are the second-team starters, Anderson’s Landon Beck is the second-team reliever, and LMU’s Scott Miller is the team’s DH. 

Tuttle posted a 10-4 record a year ago with a 3.92 ERA.  He had a phenomenal year over the summer in being named the Coastal Plains Pitcher of the Year.

Saturday, Feb. 1 marks the official start of the SAC baseball regular season, and the 2014 Food Lion SAC Baseball Championship will take place April 24-27 in Forest City, N.C.  Catawba will open the year in Florida as the Indians face Lynn for a doubleheader on opening day then Nova Southeastern on Sunday, Feb. 2.

SAC Preseason Coaches' Poll – Baseball
1. Catawba (9) 97
2t. Tusculum 78
2t. Wingate   78
4.  Coker   76
5.  Newberry (2) 71
6. Lincoln Memorial 53
7.  Carson-Newman  49
8.  Lenoir-Rhyne  42
9.  Brevard   22
10.  Anderson 20
11.  Mars Hill 19
2014 SAC Preseason All-Conference Baseball Teams
First Team
C - Josh Clark, Wingate
1B - Albert Baur, Newberry
2B - Julio Zubillaga, Catawba
SS - Evan Rogers, Mars Hill
3B - Ryan Cranmer, Newberry
OF - Thomas Spitz, Wingate
OF - Ivan Vieitez, Lenoir-Rhyne
OF - Keaton Hawks, Catawba
DH - Eric Barbieri, Newberry
SP - Jonathan Rosenberger, Newberry
SP - Olen Little, Wingate
SP - TJ Rinoski, Wingate
RP - John-Austin Shepard, Tusculum

Second Team
C - Chas Goodwin, Newberry
1B - Fico Kondla, Coker
2B - Bo Ausmus, Carson-Newman
SS - Shea Bell, Coker
3B - Blake Prince, Wingate
OF - Paul Kronenfeld, Catawba
OF - Jermale Paige, Newberry
OF - Blake Houston, Catawba
DH - Scott Miller, Lincoln Memorial
SP - John Tuttle, Catawba
SP - Andrew Goot, Coker
SP - Ben Currie, Wingate
RP - Landon Beck, Anderson

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