C-USA Preseason Baseball Poll and Awards
Jan. 28, 2009
Coming off a third consecutive trip to the College World Series, Rice has been selected as the preseason favorite in the 2009 Conference USA baseball poll, chosen by the league's nine head coaches. The Owls have three representatives on the preseason All-Conference team as the Blue & Gray seek their fourth C-USA regular season title in a row.
Rice is ranked as high as No. 3 in the preseason national rankings as the Owls look for a 14th consecutive conference title. The Owls return 16 lettermen, six position starters and eight experienced pitchers from last year's 47-15 club. Junior RHP Ryan Berry (8-5, 3.63 ERA, 86 K's, 31 BB) leads the Rice pitching staff and he also earned preseason All-America recognition in addition to his preseason all-league honor. Junior Diego Seastrunk (team-leading .353, 19 2B, 6 HR, team-best 61 RBI) was listed as the preseason all-conference catcher as he prepares to move there from the infield this spring, while sophomore SS Rick Hague (.348, 19 2B, 8 HR, 54 RBI) looks to build on a freshman All-American season.
After making its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years last season and finishing with a 42-21 overall record, East Carolina was chosen to finish in second place this spring. The Pirates welcome back 22 letterwinners, including pre-season All-American and preseason C-USA Pitcher of the Year Seth Maness, along with preseason All-Conference USA OF Stephen Batts,. Maness earned C-USA Freshman of the Year honors in 008 after tying for the league lead in wins. He was 9-2 with a 3.57 ERA and 81 strikeouts with just 20 walks in 98.1 innings pitched. Maness was just the second freshmen in East Carolina history to win nine games. Batts hit .333 with 13 doubles, 10 home runs and 45 RBI, while successfully stealing 14-of-16 bases.
Southern Miss, which is coming off a sixth consecutive NCAA appearance and welcomes back 16 letterwinners and six starters, was picked to finish third according to the league's coaches. Two Golden Eagle infielders, senior shortstop Brian Dozier, who batted .342 with a team-high 17 doubles and 46 RBI, in addition to being regarded as one of the league's best defensive players, and senior 2B James Ewing (team-best .359 average, 13 2B, 46 RBI) combine for a strong middle infield, as both players were listed on the preseason All-Conference team.
Tulane, which returned to NCAA play for the 10th time in 11 years last season, was chosen fourth, just ahead of Houston. The Green Wave is represented on the preseason team by senior infielder Seth Henry (.319, 18 2B, 7 HR, 54 RBI, 13 SB) and sophomore utility man Rob Segedin (team-high .32, 18 2B, 6 HR, 59 RBI, along with five saves in 14 appearances). The Cougars produced a pair of preseason pitchers in starter Wes Musick (8-4, 4.35 ERA, 87 Ks) and reliever Chase Dempsay (8-3, 2.53 ERA, 11 saves).
Preseason Player of the Year honors were given to Marshall senior OF Nate Lape, who helped lead the Thundering Herd to its highest win total (30) as a Division I member last season. Lape has been named to several preseason All-America lists after topping the team in nearly every statistical category in 2008, including batting (.388), runs (62), hits (83), doubles (17), home runs (17) and RBI (63). His .706 slugging percentage led Conference USA.
Lape's teammate, IF Adam Yeager, who batted .322 while shattering the Marshall record for single-season stolen bases with 47, also earned preseason all-conference accolades.
Rounding out the league's preseason All-Conference selections was UAB senior OF Brint Hardy. He was second on the Blazers in batting last year at .338, while posting an on-base percentage of .414 and stealing a team-high 24 bases.
Conference USA's 14th baseball season gets underway on February 20. The conference tournament is scheduled for May 20-24 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with Southern Miss serving as the host. C-USA's nine baseball schools have produced 59 NCAA appearances and eight College World Series teams over the past 13 seasons.
2009 PRESEASON BASEBALL COACHES POLL
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
Rank School (First Place Votes) Pts. 1. Rice (9) 81 2. East Carolina 67 3. Southern Miss 62 4. Tulane 55 5. Houston 49
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Nate Lape, Marshall (Senior, Outfielder)
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Seth Maness, East Carolina (Sophomore, Righthander)
P Ryan Berry Jr. Rice P Seth Maness So. East Carolina P Wes Musick Jr. Houston RP Chase Dempsay So. Houston C Diego Seastrunk Jr. Rice IF Brian Dozier Jr. Southern Miss IF James Ewing Sr. Southern Miss IF Rick Hague So. Rice IF Seth Henry Sr. Tulane IF Adam Yeager Sr. Marshall OF Stephen Batts Jr. East Carolina OF Brint Hardy Jr. UAB OF Nate Lape Sr. Marshall DH/UT Rob Segedin So. Tulane