AUGUSTA, Ga. – The University of North Georgia baseball team was chosen to finish 10th in the 2013 regular season by the coaches of the Peach Belt Conference as released in the 2013 PBC Preseason Coaches poll Tuesday afternoon.
Francis Marion University was selected as the preseason favorite for the second year in a row with seven first-place votes. The Patriots went 40-18 last season and are ranked seventh nationally by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
The University of South Carolina Aiken is just seven points behind the Patriots with two first-place votes and seven second-place nods. Columbus State University was chosen third with Armstrong Atlantic State University and Lander University rounding out the top-five in fourth and fifth-place respectively.
Along with FMU, five other PBC teams were ranked in the top-40 preseason poll by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper including USC Aiken 10th, Lander 26th, the University of North Carolina Pembroke tied for 32nd, Columbus State 36th and Armstrong 38th.
"I am really looking forward to getting this season started this weekend down in Valdosta," said head coach Tom Cantrell. "I feel that this group will play hard for us day-in and day-out and give themselves chances to win. We will look to put a competitive team out on the field every game and will look to play our most competitive players whether they are seniors or freshmen."
Cantrell is in his 17-year career as a head coach having posted a 676-336 career record, including a 499-284 mark in 13 years at the helm of North Georgia's baseball program, and has claimed six conference championships.
Last season, the Saints went 24-28 with a 13-17 mark in the Peach Belt Conference en route to a fourth-place finish in the West Division after a 10-5 start through the first 15 games of the season. They advanced to the conference tournament, but back-to-back losses to Armstrong Atlantic State and the USC Aiken ended the Saints' season.
Cantrell and staff will have plenty of talent to work with this season even though they will be the youngest squad in the PBC and one of the youngest in the country. Heading into the season, the Saints boast 13 freshmen and 11 sophomores taking on the bulk of the load but several of the underclassmen saw plenty of action last season. The team will also have five juniors – mostly transfers – and just three seniors filling in to help with the leadership.
The young squad starts things off against No. 28 Lynn University in the Valdosta State Tournament on Friday, Feb. 1 and will continue on with a tough out of conference schedule and a full slate of Peach Belt Conference games that will not just test the youthful team, but also make them better in time for the conference tournament.
The 2013 season will usher in several changes within the PBC. Gone is divisional play as teams will now play a 30-game conference schedule against 10 conference opponents. The league also welcomes in Young Harris College as its 13th baseball-playing school. The Mountain Lions begin their first season of competition in the Peach Belt but will not be eligible for the PBC Tournament until they complete their full transition to NCAA Division II status.
The 2013 PBC Tournament will move to Greenwood, S.C., and Lander University for the first time May 8-12. The five-day, double-elimination event will be played at the Stephen B. Dolny Stadium in the Jeff May Athletic Complex, which opened in 2012. The top eight teams in the PBC standings will compete in the tournament.
The full 2013 preseason coaches poll can be found HERE. Teams were given 13 points for a first-place vote, 12 for a second and so on. Coaches were not permitted to rank their own teams.