College of Charlestonbaseball has been picked second in the Colonial Athletic Association PreseasonPoll, according to a vote of the league's baseball coaches.
The Cougars enter the CAAafter a tremendous 14-year run in the Southern Conference, where CofC posted acumulative conference record of 286-148-1 with five conference championshipsand five NCAA Tournament trips.
Charleston went 31-26 and18-11 in conference last season, finishing second in the SoCon regular seasonbefore bowing out in the conference tournament. It marked the fifth-straightseason in which fifth-year head coach Monte Lee has won at least 30 games andfinished in the top five of the conference.
The coaches of the CAArecognized the potency of the first-year Cougars, voting CofC second with 41total points and one first-place vote. Reigning regular season champion andregional rival UNCW was picked to win the league with 48 points and six first-placevotes.
Charleston returns nearlyall of its offensive production from last year with eight of nine positionstarters back, and seven of the top eight hitters by batting average. CofC willlook to a dynamic incoming class of true freshman and sophomores to make up forthe pitching departures of Matt Pegler, Jake Zokan, Ryan West, Drew Freie,Jimmy Revan and Dre Watts, who accounted for 66.6 percent of all decisions and70.2 percent of innings pitched.
Junior Gunnar Heidt andsenior Brandon Murray return to lead the offense after posting outstandingseasons in 2013. Murray was an All-SoCon Second Team selection with nine homeruns and 54 RBIs, while Heidt led the Cougars in hitting (.349), doubles (17),steals (13) and total bases (124).
Sophomore Carl Wisereturns after a Freshman All-American campaign, garnering postseasonAll-American honors from the NCBWA, Baseball America and Perfect Game. Despiteonly starting 38 games, Wise led the team with 10 home runs and posted aslugging percentage of .606, which ranked 39th in the nation.
Sophomore Blake Butler wonAll-SoCon Second Team honors after hitting .321 with a team-best 51 runsscored. On the mound, sophomore Nathan Helvey was a member of the All-SoConFreshman team with an ERA of 3.12 and a 5-3 record, holding opponents to a .245batting average.
William & Mary, whoearned an NCAA at-large bid in 2013, was picked third in the league, while 2013CAA tournament champion Towson was picked fourth. Northeastern, JMU, Hofstraand Delaware rounded out the league's preseason poll.
The CAA is coming off oneof its best baseball seasons ever as three teams received NCAA Tournamentberths for the first time since 2001 and seven teams reached the 30-win markfor the first time in league history. The league ranked ninth in overall RPIaccording to WarrenNolan.com.
2014CAA BASEBALL PRESEASON PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1.UNCW (6 first-placevotes) 48
2.College of Charleston (1 first-placevote) 41
3.William & Mary 35
4.Towson (1 first-placevote) 31