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Eagles Tabbed A-Sun Regular Season Favorite
Erath Named Preseason Pitcher of the Year
FORT MYERS, Fla. – With the start of the baseball season just eight days away, the Atlantic Sun Conference unveiled its preseason poll on Thursday, tabbing FGCU and Mercer as the regular season favorites. Senior pitcher Richie Erath (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) highlighted three Eagles on the All-Conference team, as he was named the preseason Pitcher of the Year.
It marks the second straight year FGCU has been named the league’s regular season favorite. In 2010, the Eagles backed up their preseason honor by going 25-5 in the A-Sun en route to their third straight conference title. The Blue and Green received five of the 11 possible first place votes, while Mercer snagged four, but the two teams tied with 112 points.
Erath follows in the footsteps of Chris Sale, who went on to win the A-Sun Pitcher of the Year award in 2010. Joining Erath on the A-Sun preseason All-Conference team are senior middle-infielders Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) and Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario, Canada/Sinclair Secondary).
A native of West Palm Beach, Fla., Erath went 7-4 with a 4.42 ERA in 2010 on a staff that featured three All-Conference hurlers. Erath earned a spot on the A-Sun All-Conference second team. In all, Erath made 14 starts, working 97.2 innings with 79 strikeouts. Five of Erath’s seven wins on the season came in A-Sun action where he went at least 6.2 innings in nine of 10 starts. Erath enters his final season in the Blue and Green with a career record of 14-7.
Coming off a season in which he set a program record with 99 hits and ranked 45th nationally with a .409 batting average, Alvarez was named to the All-Conference team and All-Tournament team a year ago. Alvarez also tied the single-season record with 63 runs scored and had a .489 on-base percentage. He enters his senior campaign second all-time in program history with 244 hits and a .371 career batting average. Alvarez matched his .409 batting average at the plate in 2010 with a .981 fielding percentage at second base.
Wickens was an All-Conference selection in 2010 after batting .359 with 92 hits over 57 starts at shortstop. The Whitby, Ontario native would have broken the single-season record for hits, but Alvarez’s 99 hits took the top spot and gave the double-play duo a combined 191 hits. Wickens delivered 17 multi-hit games and finished with a team-high 18 stolen bases to go along with 62 runs scored and 17 doubles.
Over their first three seasons in Division I and as a member of the A-Sun, the Eagles have posted a 73-20 record in league play – the most conference wins by any team in the nation over the last three years. FGCU’s conference win percentage of .785 in the A-Sun over the three seasons is the fourth-best in the country over that span.
The Eagles became eligible for postseason play last season, earning the top seed in last year’s A-Sun Tournament. Mercer went on to win the tournament and was predicted to repeat in this year’s preseason poll.
FGCU will open the season at Swanson Stadium against Central Michigan on Friday, Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m. The contest will be the start of a four-game set over three days against the Chippewas.
Atlantic Sun Preseason Poll
T-1. FGCU (5) - 112
T-1. Mercer (4) - 112
3. ETSU (1) - 98
4. Jacksonville (1) - 91
5. Stetson - 73
6. Belmont - 61
7. UNF - 56
8. Kennesaw State - 46
9. Lipscomb - 39
10. Campbell - 25
11. - USC Upstate - 13
Tournament Champion: Mercer (5 Votes)
Atlantic Sun Preseason All-Conference Team
SP - *Richie Erath (Sr.) - FGCU
SP - Matt Mc-Call (So.) - Mercer
SP - Matt Tomshaw (Sr.) - Jacksonville
RP - Jon Ivie - (Sr.) - Belmont
C - Derek Trent (Sr.) - ETSU
1B - *Paul Hoilman (Sr.) - ETSU
2B - Mikel Alvarez (Sr.) - FGCU
3B - *Jacob Tanis (Jr.) - Mercer
SS - Stephen Wickens (Sr.) - FGCU
OF - Dylan Craig (Jr.) - Belmont
OF - Dan Gulbransen (So.) - Jacksonville
OF - Adam Brett Walker (So.) - Jacksonville
DH - *Nate Woods (Sr.) - Belmont
Preseason Player of the Year: Paul Hoilman, 1B, Sr., ETSU
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Richie Erath, RP, Sr., FGCU