@FGCU_Baseball Picked to Finish Third, Fans Give Tillery, Murray & Diaz Honors
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | by Matt Moretti III (@Moretts13)

MACON, Ga. – With the 2014 FGCU Baseball season just 17 days away, the Atlantic Sun Conference revealed on Wednesday the preseason predictions and awards as voted on by the coaches. FGCU has been tabbed to finish third behind reigning Regular Season Champion Mercer and North Florida, respectively.

The fans chose Zack Tillery as the Preseason Player of the Year, Michael Murray as Preseason Pitcher of the Year and Alex Diaz as Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in a poll hosted by the A-Sun on Facebook during the week leading up to the announcement.

Mercer received 97 points to go with seven first place votes followed by North Florida with 86 points and one first place vote. The Eagles finished with 73 points and two first place votes. ETSU (69), Kennesaw State (64), Stetson (60), Lipscomb (34), USC Upstate (30), Jacksonville (27) and Northern Kentucky (10) round out the 10-team poll. Both Mercer and 2013 A-Sun Tournament Champion ETSU advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season. The top eight teams in the standings at the end of the regular season will advance to the 2014 A-Sun Championship Tournament hosted by FGCU at Swanson Stadium May 21-25.

“Being chosen third gives our team something to aim for” head coach Dave Tollett stated. “Three teams received votes for first-place which shows this league is up for grabs, now it’s up to our guys to put in the work necessary to take the next step.”

After being selected to win the conference in the preseason voting last year, the Eagles finished 37-20 in 2013 with a 19-8 mark in the A-Sun which ended up good for second place by the end of the regular season.

Tillery (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) earned recognition from the fans as the A-Sun Baseball Preseason Player of the Year following a 2013 season during which he hit .299 with 22 RBI in 44 games primarily at third base. Tillery also took the mound for the Eagles 11 times, making nine starts and compiling a 4-1 record with a 3.98 ERA and 24 strikeouts.

The fans chose FGCU’s top returning starting pitcher, Murray (West Palm Beach, Fla./Forest Hill HS), as the Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Murray made 13 starts for the Green and Blue in 2013, second most on the team, earning a 5-1 record with a 2.93 ERA. His efforts landed him on the 2013 A-Sun All-Freshman Team as a unanimous selection.

Diaz (Miami, Fla./John A. Ferguson HS) rounds out the clean sweep FGCU made of the fan voting awards with his Preseason Defensive Player of the Year nod. The FGCU shortstop appeared in 55 games in 2013 making 45 starts and working a .952 fielding percentage with 120 assists. He was also second on the team with four stolen bases.

“These three guys put in the time and effort both on the field and in the classroom to compete at a high level” Tollett added. “I am glad the fans recognize their abilities and I want to congratulate them.”

In addition to the three players honored here by the fans, the Eagles return 2013 A-Sun Second Team selection, outfielder, Michael Suchy (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast HS). Suchy is the Eagles top returner in batting average (.314), runs (37), hits (71), home runs (9), RBI (46) and stolen bases (7), based on his 2013 totals.

FGCU opens the 2014 regular season with a four-game series at Swanson Stadium opposite Atlantic 10 Conference foe Rhode Island beginning on Valentine’s Day at 6:30 p.m. The Eagles will then play a doubleheader with the Rams on Saturday at 1 p.m. before concluding the series with a solo game on Sunday a 1 p.m. 

Preseason Player of the Year: Chesny Young, Mercer
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Chad Sobotka, USC Upstate
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Michael Massi, Mercer

Fan-Voted Preseason Player of the Year: Zack Tillery, FGCU
Fan-Voted Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Michael Murray, FGCU
Fan-Voted Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Alex Diaz, FGCU

Preseason All-Conference Team

Pos. Name School Class
SP Tyler Moore North Florida  Sr.
SP  Chad Sobotka  USC Upstate  Jr. 
SP  Brandon Barker  Mercer  Sr. 
RP  Dimitri Kourits  Mercer  Jr. 
Max Pentecost  Kennesaw State  Jr. 
*1B  Patrick Mazeika  Stetson  So. 
2B  Michael Massi  Mercer  Sr. 
*3B  Chesney Young  Mercer  Jr. 
SS  Kal Simmons  Kennesaw State  So. 
OF  Clinton Freeman  ETSU  Sr. 
OF  Donnie Dewees  North Florida  So. 
OF  Bo Way  Kennesaw State  Sr. 
*DH  Nick Backlund  Mercer  Sr. 

 A-Sun Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Mercer (7) 97
2. North Florida (1) 86
3. FGCU (2) 73
4. ETSU 69
5. Kennesaw State 64
6. Stetson 60
7. Lipscomb 34
8. USC Upstate 30
9. Jacksonville 27
10.Northern Kentucky 10