Baseball Tied for Fifth in Preseason Coaches Poll; Season Opener vs. Lenoir-Rhyne on February 1st
January 19, 2012
HIGH POINT, N.C. - Entering the program’s 25th season, the Limestone College baseball team has been voted the top team in this year’s league preseason poll as voted on by conference head coaches. Following a record-breaking 2011 campaign last year, the Saints broke the team record for most wins in a season after finishing 34-18 overall with a 14-6 conference mark and went 6-2 against the league’s nationally ranked teams during the regular season. Pfeiffer University, who finished just under .500 a year ago, was picked tied for fifth with North Greenville.
Limestone returns a solid pitching staff from a year ago, led by juniors Cameron Ward and Cameron Culp and seniors Jeremy Peed, Andrew Thompson and Josh White. Ward put together a 9-2 record to go with a 2.96 ERA en route to All-Conference and All-Region honors while Culp, a Second-Team All-Conference selection, shattered the program’s single season and career saves records in 2011.
Also returning this year for the Saints are senior corner infielders Jake Rierson and Zach Howard and outfielders Al Benson and Chad Balderman. Rierson anchored the nation’s second ranked defense at first base while Balderman put together a stellar rookie season after compiling a .328 batting average, seven home runs and 34 RBI as both players received All-Conference nods a season ago.
Senior transfer Josh Lyon has possible the biggest shoes to fill this season as he takes over the catching duties last occupied by All-American Joe Maloney, now in the Texas Rangers farm system. Lyon is up to the tasking, however, as he brings in a solid resume after three years at Indiana University, including a First-Team All-Big Ten selection after registering a .371 batting average, 14 home runs, 21 doubles, and 39 RBI during his sophomore season with the Hoosiers.
Mount Olive, which is ranked No. 5 in the 2012 ABCA Division II Preseason Top 40 Poll, returns a number of potent bats from last year’s squad, which won the Conference Carolinas and Southeast Regional championships, and tied for third at the 2011 NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals. The Trojans finished the 2011 campaign with a 47-10 overall record and 16-4 league mark.
All-America third baseman Jacob Rogers was among the nation’s leaders with a .414 batting average, 25 doubles and six triples. First baseman Daniel Coffey, who batted .307 with five home runs and 48 runs batted in, was named to the All-Tournament Team at last year’s National Finals. Also returning are centerfielder Antonio Calloway (.279, 12 doubles, 11 stolen bases) and catcher/designated hitter Nick Gaeta (.381 batting average, 6 runners caught stealing).
Belmont Abbey was selected third in the preseason poll as voted on by the league’s coaches. The Abbey baseball team returns six position starters and its top three pitchers from last year’s team that finished 29-17 overall with a third place league finish and 13-6 conference mark.
Three all-conference performers return including staff ace Steven Thiele, who enters his senior season as the Crusaders number one starter. Thiele, a first-team all-conference selection, won his first six decisions last year as he finished 6-3 with a 4.36 ERA with 51 strikeouts. Senior infielder Joey Frabasile returns as the Crusaders leading hitter. A second-team all-conference pick in 2011, the first baseman hit .366 with 11 doubles, four home runs and 37 RBI. Designated hitter Matt Mazzolla also was a second team pick in 2011, hitting .313 with six homers and 19 RBI. On the mound, the Abbey will return its top two starters, Thiele and sophomore Cody Stull, who finished 5-2 with a team-best 4.25 ERA.
Rounding out the baseball preseason poll 4-9 is: Erskine, North Greenville & Pfeiffer (tied), Barton & King (tied), and Coker respectively.
Conference Carolinas Pre-Season Coaches Poll(first place votes)
1. Limestone - (3) 59
2. Mount Olive - (5) 58
3. Belmont Abbey - 48
4. Erskine - 42
T5. Pfeiffer - 31
T5. North Greenville - (1) 31
T7. Barton - 21
T7. King - 21
9. Coker - 13