SAC PRESEASON POLL
Rank School (First-place votes) Points
1 Catawba (6) 94
2 Wingate (4) 86
3 Carson-Newman 78
4 Tusculum 73
5 Mars Hill 59
6 Lincoln Memorial 54
7 Lenoir-Rhyne 39
8 Anderson 29
9 Newberry 27
10 Brevard 11

Catawba College Athletics

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Catawba College, which won the 2010 Food Lion Tournament title, is the favorite to win the 2011 South Atlantic Conference baseball championship in a vote of the league's head coaches. Catawba received six first-place votes and 94 total points. The Indians went 40-13 last season and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row. The Indians placed six on the preseason All-Conference team, including returning SAC Pitcher of the Year Nathan Furr (6-0, 4.06 ERA in 2010).

Joining Furr on the preseason All-Conference first team from Catawba is relief pitcher Wil Huneycutt.

Wingate University, the 2010 regular-season champions, is picked to finish second. The Bulldogs, under first-year coach Jeff Gregory, received four first-place votes and 86 total points.

Wingate placed four on the preseason All-Conference team. Brian Yeung at first base, shortstop Chris Vazquez and outfielder Dodson McPherson were named to the first team, while pitcher Chris Nelson was named to the second team. Vazquez hit .382 and was among the conference leaders in total hits and doubles last season.

Carson-Newman College is picked to finish third with 78 points. Pitcher Austin Bridgewater, who went 5-1 with a 4.32 ERA last season, was a preseason All-Conference first team selection.

Tusculum College received 73 points to finish in fourth place in the poll. The Pioneers placed three on the preseason All-Conference team. Catcher Sean Cotton, who was second in the conference with 69 RBIs last season, is joined on the first team by pitcher Tyler Collins and second baseman Payden Houser, who hit .404 last season.

Mars Hill College is predicted to finish fifth. The Lions received 59 points. Outfielder Rusty Smith was named to the preseason All-Conference first team, while catcher Adam Lewis and relief pitcher Tony Hearrell were both named to the second team. Smith hit .352 with 57 RBI, Lewis hit .398 with 55 RBI last season, while Hearrell was 4-1 with six saves.

Lincoln Memorial University received 54 points for sixth place. The Railsplitters placed three on the preseason All-Conference team with third baseman John Couch and outfielder Cody Pack on the first team, while outfielder Cody Baker was named to the second team. Pack was among the conference leaders in home runs and RBIs last season, while Baker was among the leaders with a .407 batting average.

Lenoir-Rhyne University is seventh with 39 points. The Bears return preseason All-Conference first-team designated hitter Brian Dice, who was second in the SAC with a .435 batting average last season while hitting 16 home runs and driving in 59 runs. Shortstop Dalton Hall and outfielder Stephen Andrews were named to the second team.

Anderson University received 29 points for eighth place. The Trojans placed two on the preseason All-Conference second team in first baseman Erick Sanderson and second baseman Ryan Saxon.

Newberry College is ninth with 27 points. The Wolves, under first-year coach Russell Triplett, placed two on the preseason All-Conference second team. Pitcher Josh McElwee, who led the league in strikeouts in 2008 and 2009, is joined by third baseman Chris Love.

Brevard College rounds out the poll with 11 points. The Tornados will be looking to move up in the standings under first-year coach Matt McCay.

The 2011 baseball season starts Feb. 1 with four games. Catawba and Mars Hill open on the road, while Lenoir-Rhyne and Wingate open at home.

The 2011 Food Lion SAC Baseball Tournament will be April 20-23 at McNair Field in in Forest City, N.C. The top six teams at the end of the regular season will advance to the conference tournament.

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE
Pos. First Team School   Pos. Second Team School
SP Nathan Furr Catawba College   SP Nick Lomascolo Catawba College
SP Austin Bridgewater Carson-Newman College   SP Josh McElwee Newberry College
SP Tyler Collins Tusculum College   SP Chris Nelson Wingate University
RP Wil Huneycutt Catawba College   RP Tony Hearrell Mars Hill
C Sean Cotten Tusculum College   C Adam Lewis Mars Hill College
1B Brian Yeung Wingate University   1B Erick Sanderson Anderson University
2B Payden Houser Tusculum College   2B Ryan Saxon Anderson University
3B John Couch Lincoln Memorial University   3B Chris Love Newberry College
SS Chris Vazquez Wingate University   SS Dalton Hall Lenoir-Rhyne University
OF Cody Pack Lincoln Memorial University   OF Cody Baker Lincoln Memorial University
OF Rusty Smith Mars Hill College   OF Stephen Andrews Lenoir-Rhyne University
OF Dodson McPherson Wingate University   OF Ryan Bostian Catawba College
DH Brian Dice Lenoir-Rhyne University   DH Garrett Furr Catawba College