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Thread: LOUISIANA Picked To Take Sun Belt Crown

  1. #1

    UL Baseball LOUISIANA Picked To Take Sun Belt Crown

    FIU kicks off baseball season on Friday

    NEW ORLEANS It has been a while since Louisiana took home some Sun Belt hardware.

    But that is exactly what head coach Tony Robichaux and his Ragin' Cajun baseball squad is expected to do in 2005, as UL was picked to win the Sun Belt Conference according to a preseason poll of the nine Sun Belt head coaches, it was announced on Friday.

    The Cajuns, who are five years removed from finishing tied for third at the 2000 College World Series, received eight out of nine first-place votes. It is a squad that returns some serious talent from last year's 34-23 squad.

    On the mound, the Cajuns return senior right-hander Kevin Ardoin, who was a 12th-round draft choice by the Texas Rangers last season. Ardoin went 6-2 with a 3.30 earned run average and struck out 95 in 106 1/3 innings of work.

    The Cajuns will also have some strong sticks, led by All-Sun Belt first baseman Phillip Hawke (.329 batting average, 10 home runs, 42 runs batted in). All-Sun Belt third baseman Dallas Morris also returns after hitting .373 last year before going down with a leg injury.

    UL will be shooting for its first Sun Belt regular season title since 1997.

    The Cajuns' top contender is expected to be South Alabama, which was tabbed second. The 2004 Sun Belt co-champions return some key contributors from last year, including 2004 Freshman All-American P.J. Walters.

    Walters went 10-1 with a 2.43 ERA last season. The Jaguar ace had 119 strikeouts, compared to only 38 walks, and tallied six complete games.

    USA will also return senior right-hander Jeramy Simmons (9-4, 4.76 ERA) along with top offensive prospect Quendon Montgomery (.304, 6 HR, 40 RBIs).

    Defending Sun Belt Tournament champion Western Kentucky was predicted to finish third. The Hilltoppers will have some strong starting pitching, led by 2004 Sun Belt Tournament Most Outstanding Player Grady Hinchman.

    The senior left-hander went 7-5 with a 3.00 ERA last year, including an incredible run through the postseason. After winning two games in the conference tournament, the Pendleton, Ind., product threw a complete-game gem in a 1-0 shutout at Mississippi in the 2004 NCAA Regionals.

    Offensively, the Hilltoppers will be paced by All-Sun Belt standout Tim Grogan (.332, 13 HRs, 63 RBIs) and sophomore catcher Jordan Newton (.325, 4 HRs, 32 RBIs).

    Talent-rich Florida International is slated for fourth. FIU returns senior standout Dennis Diaz, who led the league with 49 stolen bases last year, along with junior infielder Luis Rivera returns. Closer Danny Hernandez (6-1, 2.80 ERA) will bolster the FIU pitching staff.

    Middle Tennessee, the 2004 Sun Belt co-champions, was picked fifth. The Blue Raiders should be strong offensively, returning first-team All-Sun Belt infielders Jeff Beachum (.326, 4 HRs, 30 RBIs) and Eric McNamee (.364, 71 runs).

    New Mexico State, which received the only other first-place vote, was selected sixth. The Aggies will bring back '04 Newcomer of the Year Xardiel Cotto (.379, 11 HRs, 57 RBIs), and outfielder Mark Aranada (.346, 16 HRs, 57 RBIs).

    Arkansas State was tabbed seventh, returning All-Sun Belt shortstop Chris Rich (.330, 9 HRs, 53 RBIs) along with the school's all-time saves leader (Blake Ring).

    New Orleans, which will debut new head coach Tom Walter, was picked eighth. The Privateers will have to replace 2004 Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year Thomas Diamond. Leading the way will be sophomore outfielder Tony Gonzalez (9 HRs, 37 RBIs) along with senior right-hander Michael Jones (1-1, 2.57 ERA).

    Arkansas-Little Rock was picked ninth. The Trojans, who had one of the best 2005 recruiting classes in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, will return four starters from last year including senior outfielder Jimmy Scott (3 HRs, 23 RBIs).


    SUN BELT CONFERENCE PRESEASON BASEBALL POLL
    As voted on by the league's 9 head coaches

    ** First-place votes in parentheses
    Rank   Team                    Pts.
    1. Louisiana (8) 80
    2. South Alabama 65
    3. Western Kentucky 57
    4. Florida International 54
    5. Middle Tennessee 43
    6. New Mexico State (1) 38
    7. Arkansas State 25
    8. New Orleans 22
    9. Arkansas-Little Rock 21
    The source of the story
    SUNBELT SI

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    Decatur, AL
    Posts
    1,711

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    01. Louisiana
    02. South Alabama
    03. Western Kentucky
    04. Florida International
    05. Middle Tennessee
    06. Arkansas State
    07. New Orleans
    08. Arkansas-Little Rock
    09. ULM
    10. Troy University
    11. Florida Atlantic

    North Texas needs to join in on the great Sun Belt baseball future we have.


  3. #3

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    Some of the national magazines have already weighed in, and now the Sun Belt Conference baseball coaches are in agreement.

    By nearly unanimous decree, the University of Louisiana's baseball squad is picked to win the league title in the annual coaches' poll released Friday by the conference office.

    The Ragin' Cajuns, earlier ranked No. 47 in the Baseball America preseason poll and picked by that magazine to win the Sun Belt, got eight of the nine coaches' first-place votes in the poll. Their 80 total points were well ahead of South Alabama's 65-point total.

    "We're honored, but the poll really doesn't mean anything because we haven't played yet," said UL coach Tony Robichaux. "We try not to think about it. We want to prove it on the field."

    The Cajuns won't get to start that proof for two more weeks, opening on Friday, Feb. 11, against La. Tech at 6:30 p.m. in the first of a three-game series. They will be on the field today, weather permitting, when they host the annual Fan Day activities at Moore Field.

    Sun Belt baseball actually began Friday night when Florida International hosted Florida A&M in the first game of a weekend series. FIU (54 points) is picked fourth in the poll behind Western Kentucky (57), with Middle Tennessee (43) fifth and New Mexico State (38) sixth. NMSU received the other first-place vote.

    When the Cajuns do take the field, both today and on Feb. 11, they'll do it with a cast of characters very familiar to local fans. Among 23 lettermen are six position players who started 40 or more games last year and six pitchers who made at least a dozen appearances and totaled 41 starts.

    The rest of the story



    Dan McDonald
    dmcdonald@theadvertiser.com

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