South Alabama tabbed to win East baseball title, CCU second
NEW ORLEANS – The reigning Sun Belt baseball tournament champions, the South Alabama Jaguars, and the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns are the East and West division favorites in the Sun Belt Conference baseball preseason coaches’ poll heading into the 2018 season.
The Jaguars finished the 2017 campaign with a 40-21 record, including a 22-8 Sun Belt mark. USA swept through the tournament and earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Jaguars return eight starters from last season's squad and have been ranked by several rating services during the preseason.
USA led the Sun Belt in hitting with a .304 team average and also led the league in runs scored with 488. The Jaguars had 644 hits on the season, 78 of which were round-trippers. USA garnered all 12 first-place votes in the East for a total of 72 points.
Coastal Carolina, the East division champs from 2017, were picked to finish second behind the Jaguars as the Chanticleers totaled 59 points. Georgia Southern, the runner-up in the Sun Belt tournament final, was picked to finish third in the East with 43 points.
Louisiana finished second in the West a season ago with a 19-10-1 mark in league play and a 35-21-1 overall record. The Ragin' Cajuns led the Sun Belt with a 3.33 earned run average and a league-high 20 saves. Louisiana was second in the league in fielding with 49 errors in 57 games.
The Ragin' Cajuns tallied 68 points in the poll with nine first-place votes.
UTA won the West a season ago and was picked to finish second in the West in 2018, tallying 56 points and two first-place votes. Texas State earned the final first-place vote in the West as the Bobcats garnered 51 points, which has them finishing third.
The 2018 baseball season begins on Friday, February 18. The 2018 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Championship is set for May 22-27 at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
2018 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Coaches’ Preseason Poll
first-place votes in parentheses
1. South Alabama (12) - 72 pts
2. Coastal Carolina - 59 pts
3. Georgia Southern - 43 pts
4. Troy - 41 pts
5. Georgia State - 20 pts
6. Appalachian State - 16 pts
1. Louisiana (9) - 68 pts
2. UTA (2) - 56 pts
3. Texas State (1) - 51 pts
4. Arkansas State - 36 pts
5. Little Rock - 27 pts
6. ULM - 11 pts