AUGUSTA, GA – The North Georgia College & State University baseball team has been picked to finish 5th according to the Peach Belt Conference preseason poll of the league's head coaches released on Friday afternoon.
Georgia College earns the top-spot in the poll after claiming the PBC Championships a year ago and making a run to the Division II College World Series. The Bobcats received six of the possible 10 first-place votes, while Columbus State garnered four first-place votes and is picked to finish second in the league.
Francis Marion rounds out the top three spots, while USC Aiken is fourth and North Georgia is fifth, receiving two third place votes, a trio of fourth place votes, and six fifth place votes for 84 total points.
Flagler was picked sixth, followed by UNC Pembroke, Armstrong Atlantic, Georgia Southwestern, Lander, Montevallo, and Augusta State. Montevallo and ASU each earned six last-place votes, but the Falcons' lone eighth place kept them from the final spot in the poll.
After nearly missing out on the NCAA Southeast Regional baseball tournament last season, the Saints are back with a new-look squad ready to create a new identity in 2011. North Georgia will enter the season ranked 35th in the country by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, one of five Peach Belt Conference teams to earn a preseason ranking, more than any other league in the country.
Four starters return for the Saints, including First-Team Peach Belt All-Conference performer Jordan Erisman who hit .345 a year ago with 14 doubles, six triples, and five home runs. The junior enters the 2011 season on a 21-game hitting streak and has been tabbed as a preseason All-American by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Head coach Tom Cantrell returns for his 12th season at the helm of the Saints, posting 441 wins during his first 11 years as the skipper at North Georgia as he will look to guide his team back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years.
The Saints open the 2011 schedule season with 14 of the team's first 17 games at home, including series against Mars Hill, Stillman College, and Millersville University the first three weeks of February.
Peach Belt Conference play is set to start February 26, against UNC Pembroke and will conclude with the PBC Tournament May 8-12, at Golden Park in Columbus, Ga. The top four teams in each division will advance to the tournament, which has moved from a single-elimination to a double elimination format this season.
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