MACON, Ga. – Stetson is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as Atlantic Sun Conference baseball champion in 2008 in the league’s preseason poll. The Hatters garnered eight of 12 first place votes in the poll conducted among the conference’s head coaches. Hatter outfielder Justin Bass and Lipscomb catcher Caleb Joseph split preseason Player of the Year honors, while Lipscomb’s Rex Brothers claimed Pitcher of the Year honors.
FGCU, who returns eight starters in the field and five of their top seven pitchers from a season ago, was selected 10th by the league coaches in their first year of Division I. The Eagles finished their final season in Division II with their second consecutive 40 and trip to the NCAA South Regional.
The Hatters won the A-Sun regular season title by four games last season en route to a 42-win season, and an at-large berth in the Tallahassee Regional. In addition to the eight first-place votes, Stetson was also picked to win its third Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament title in the last four seasons. Kennesaw State picked up two first-place votes, finishing a distant second to the Hatters. Defending A-Sun tournament champ Jacksonville checks in at third in the poll, and Mercer and Lipscomb round out the top-five, each receiving one first-place vote.
Bass and Joseph, both 2007 First-Team All-Atlantic Sun honorees, were unanimous selections to the preseason All-Conference team. Bass led the Hatters at the plate in ’07, hitting .362, five home runs, 17 doubles, and conference-best five triples and 54 RBI. Joseph led the league with 25 doubles, while also posting a team-leading .339 batting average.
2007 Second-Team selection Robbie Elsemiller joins Bass and Joseph as the only other unanimous selection. The Stetson closer tallied 12 saves and compiled a 2.36 ERA for the Hatters last season.
Rex Brothers, the A-Sun’s Freshman of the Year in ’07, scored preseason Pitcher of the Year honors. The rising sophomore was 7-4 with 93 strikeouts last season, helping the Bisons earn their first-ever A-Sun tournament bid.
Jacksonville senior pitcher Matt Dobbins, Mercer senior shortstop Billy Shaughnessy and Elsemiller are preseason All-Conference selection for the second consecutive season.
The preseason team displays the Atlantic Sun’s depth of talent from top to bottom, as nine of 12 member institutions are represented on this season’s all-conference team. Kennesaw State leads the way with three selections, followed by Belmont, Jacksonville and Stetson, each with two.
First pitch for the 2008 campaign is Friday, February 22 with all 12 A-Sun schools in action, and concludes with the conference tournament in DeLand, Fla. where the A-Sun will crown its 30th baseball champion.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is a 12-member league committed to Building Winners for Life, with a focus on academic and athletic integrity and a balance between the two for the student-athlete, and maintaining a high level of sportsmanship. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun encompasses six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun consists of some of the most dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Gardner-Webb University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.