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Feb 11, 2013 11:03 AM by Sun Belt Sports

Cajuns Baseball Tabbed 8th in SBC Preseason Coaches Poll

The Florida Atlantic Owls have been tabbed as the preseason favorites to win the 2013 Sun Belt Conference baseball title, the league announced on Monday.

FAU won the SBC regular season title in 2012 behind a 32-22 overall record and a 19-8 record in SBC play. This season, the Owls return six starters from that squad and four starting pitchers, including 2013 All-SBC Preseason selections pitcher Austin Gomber and first baseman Mark Nelson.

The Owls received five first-place votes from the coaches and finished with 89 points.

FIU, which finished third in the standings a season ago, was picked to finish second by the coaches. The Panthers received one first-place vote and 85 points. FIU's duo of catcher Aramis Garcia and starting pitcher Michael Ellis were selected to the preseason All-SBC team.

The Panthers return five position starters from the 2012 squad (31-26, 15-14 SBC) that was second in the SBC in hitting (.289 avg.) and slugging percentage(.430), tied for second in homeruns (47) and third in hits (564).

South Alabama (67 points), Troy (61 points) and Arkansas State (60 points) rounded out the top five in the preseason coaches' poll.

Troy's Logan Pierce was voted as the Preseason Player of the Year for the Trojans and looks to build upon a successful 2012 campaign after being named to the All-Sun Belt First Team after batting .341 with 51 runs scored, 77 hits, 18 doubles, a triple, five home runs, 47 RBIs, a .496 slugging percentage, a .444 on-base percentage and .940 OPS.

Pierce, a senior, finished seventh in the Sun Belt in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage, fourth in runs scored, fifth in hits, seventh in RBIs, third in doubles, 10th in total bases and fourth in walks (43).

Pierce was joined on the preseason team by teammates Nate Hill (senior, relief pitcher) and Danny Collins (junior, outfield).

UALR's Chance Cleveland was voted as the Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Cleveland, a First-Team All-SBC selection in 2012, compiled a 9-4 record last season in 14 starts to tie a UALR school record for wins in a season. The senior ended the year with an SBC-leading 98 strikeouts over 91.2 innings, while holding opposing batters to a .244 average. The 98 strikeouts were good enough for second all-time on the Trojan single-season list.

Troy and South Alabama led all teams with three selections each while ASU, FAU, FIU and Middle Tennessee each had two selections on the preseason team.

The 2013 SBC Baseball season starts Friday, February 15th with all ten teams in action. SunBeltSports.org will have all the game scores, recaps and stats throughout the season.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will play host to the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship which is set for May 22-26 in Lafayette, La. at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field.

2013 Preseason All-Sun Belt Baseball Team
Chance Cleveland (UALR, Senior, RHP)
Austin Gomber (Florida Atlantic, Sophomore, LHP)
Michael Ellis (FIU, Junior, RHP)
Johnathan Frebis (Middle Tennessee, Sophomore, LHP)
Nate Hill (Troy, Senior, LHP)
Aramis Garcia (FIU, Sophomore, Catcher)
Mark Nelson (Florida Atlantic, Senior, 1B)
Logan Kirkland (South Alabama, Sophomore, 2B
Dustin Jones (Arkansas State, Junior, SS)
Logan Pierce (Troy, Senior, 3B)
Logan Uxa (Arkansas State, Senior, OF)
Trent Miller (Middle Tennessee, Junior, OF)
Danny Collins (Troy, Junior, OF)
Whitt Dorsey (South Alabama, Senior, DH)
Jordan Patterson (South Alabama, Junior, UTIL)

2013 Preseason Player of the Year
Logan Pierce (Troy, Senior, 3B)

2013 Preseason Pitcher of the Year
Chance Cleveland (UALR, Senior, RHP)

2013 SBC Coaches Predicted Order of Finish (first place votes)
1. Florida Atlantic (5) - 89 pts
2. FIU (1) - 85 pts
3. South Alabama - 67 pts
4. Troy - 61 pts
5. Arkansas State (1) - 60 pts
6. Middle Tennessee (1) - 56 pts
7. Western Kentucky - 42 pts
8. Louisiana-Lafayette (1) - 39 pts
9. Louisiana-Monroe (1) - 31 pts
10. UALR - 20 pts

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