Thomasville, NC- Conference Carolinas head baseball coaches voted Mount Olive College as their preseason poll favorite for the 2008 season. Mount Olive is ranked No. 6 in this year’s Collegiate Baseball Division II Preseason Poll and returns the 2007 Daktronics Division II Baseball National Player of the Year in first baseman Erik Lovett. The Trojans were the top seed and tournament host for last year’s NCAA II South Atlantic Regional and came within one win of advancing to the NCAA II National Finals. The Trojans set a school single-season wins mark with a 49-13 record last season.
Mount Olive has won the conference tournament in each of the last two years and posted a 20-3 mark in conference play to win last year’s regular season title. The Trojans set a record with 12 All-Conference players last season. Along with first team All-American and region and conference player of the year Lovett, the Trojans return All-Conference first team member David Cooper at shortstop, second team members Casey Hodges at starting pitcher, closer Patrick Ball and regional All-Tournament team member Anthony Williams at second base.
The Trojans will have to deal with the loss of four All-Americans, three of whom played pro ball last summer. Mount Olive faces another challenging conference and non-conference schedule, opening the season February 2 at home with a three-game series against nationally seventh-ranked Tusculum.
The Belmont Abbey College Crusaders place second in the coaches’ preseason poll. The Abbey looks to carry momentum into the 2008 season as they are coming off a year in which they finished second in the conference regular season and eighth in the final regional poll with 31-23 overall and 16-7 league record. Belmont Abbey also received votes in the national poll for 14 consecutive weeks last year.
The Crusaders have five returning positional starters, highlighted by sophomore All-American second baseman Alex Castellanos and senior All-American designated hitter Seth Waller. The Crusaders also have 24 wins returning on the mound showcasing senior starting pitcher Andy Helms. Castellanos, Waller, and Helms were all first team All-Conference members as well. With the addition of a sizeable recruiting class there is reason for optimism in Belmont.
Erskine College has good reason for being voted in the third spot in this year’s poll after going 36-24 overall and 13-11 in league play last year. Under Head Coach Kevin Nichols, the Fleet has averaged a 39-18 record over the past three seasons on the way to over 250 wins over the past eight years.
The 2008 Fleet return 40 players from last season that include their entire starting pitching staff. First team All-Conference sophomore outfielder Bryan Fogle, second team sophomore outfielder Chas Anthony, and second team sophomore starting pitcher William Buzhardt will be called upon to help deliver throughout the season.
Rounding out the baseball preseason poll 4-9 is: Pfeiffer, Barton, Anderson & Limestone, Coker, and St. Andrews respectively.
Conference Carolinas Pre-Season Coaches Poll
(First place votes in parenthesis)
|1. Mount Olive||(7)||63|
|2. Belmont Abbey College||(1)||52|
|3. Erskine College||(1)||49|
|4. Pfeiffer University||42|
|5. Barton College||33|
|T-6. Anderson University||28|
|T-6. Limestone College||28|
|8. Coker College||21|
|9. St. Andrews Presbyterian College||8|