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January 29, 2013

Francis Marion Named Baseball Preseason Favorite

AUGUSTA, GA – For the second year in a row, the Francis Marion Patriots are the preseason choice to capture the 2013 Peach Belt Conference baseball championship in a poll of the leagues head coaches released on Tuesday.  FMU captured seven first-place votes and finished with 137 points in the poll, seven ahead of USC Aiken in second.  Columbus State was third and Armstrong fourth in the voting.

Lander was fifth overall, followed by Georgia College, UNC Pembroke and Montevallo.  Flagler, North Georgia, newcomer Young Harris, Augusta State and Georgia Southwestern rounded out the voting.

Francis Marion is coming off a 40-18 season last year, their third straight year of 40 or more wins, and their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance.  Ranked #7 in the nation, the Patriots had the best team ERA in the PBC last year and were second in the league in hitting.  For 2013, FMU returns 15 letterwinners including six position starters and six members of the pitching staff.  Among the returners is preseason All-Conference pitcher Jeff Stoner and 2011 PBC Pitcher of the Year Don Sandifer.

USC Aiken is ranked 10th in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason national poll after winning 37 games a year ago.  The Pacers were the best hitting team in the Peach Belt a year ago with a .337 team batting average and were second in the league in team ERA.  Senior catcher Josh Miller leads a host of returning players, he was named first-team All-Conference last year.  Also returning is All-Conference pitcher Ryan Milewski.

After ending the 2012 season with a 30-23 record, Columbus State will be looking to return to the NCAA Tournament after missing the postseason for the first time since 2009. The Cougars return 12 players from last season's squad including All-PBC designated hitter Cameron Scott and left-handed pitcher Brodie Leibrandt. Also, 2011 All-PBC player Ryan Lewis will be welcomed back into the fold after missing all but three games last season with a back injury.

In 2012, Armstrong Atlantic State became the first PBC baseball team to win both the PBC regular-season championship and the PBC Tournament title in the same year since 1998.  41-16 overall, Armstrong returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 and are ranked 38th in the nation to start the 2013 year.  Among the returners for ABCA Hall of Fame coach Joe Roberts are first-team All-Conference pitcher Ethan Bader and All-Conference utility player R.J. Dennard.

The 2013 season begins this weekend and the PBC will usher in several changes for this season.  Gone is divisional play, 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 2013 preseason coaches poll is listed below.  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.

Rank Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th Total
1.
Francis Marion 7 3
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
137
2.
USC Aiken 2
7
2
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
130
3.
Columbus State 2
1
5
2
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
119
4.
Armstrong 1
2
0
4
4
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
108
5.
Lander 1
0
3
2
2
1
2
0
0
1
0
0
98
6.
Georgia College 0
0
1
0 1 7
2
0
1
0
0
0
83
7.
UNC Pembroke 0
0
0
3
3
0
1
2
3
0
0
0
79
8.
Montevallo 0
0
0
0
0
3
2
3
3
1 0
0
63
9.
Flagler 0
0
0
1
0
1
2
1
2
4
0
1
54
10.
North Georgia 0
0
0
0
0
0
3
4
1
2
2 0
52
11.
Young Harris 0
0
0
0
1
1
0
2
3
3
1 1
49
12.
Augusta State 0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
1
7
3
25
13.
Georgia Southwestern
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
3
8
17