BRENTWOOD – Austin Peay State University’s baseball team was picked to finish second in the Ohio Valley Conference’s preseason poll of coaches and sports information directors, Friday.
Despite losing six position starters from last season’s squad, the league’s coaches and sports information directors awarded Austin Peay 164 points and two first-place votes. The Govs were picked behind defending regular-season champion Tennessee Tech, which received 19 first-place votes and 199 total points.
Selected behind the Golden Eagles and Govs were Belmont (158 points), Jacksonville State (154), Eastern Kentucky (139, 1 first-place vote) and Southeast Missouri (104) to round out the six-team tournament field. On the outside looking in were Eastern Illinois (96), SIUE (67), Morehead State (58), Murray State (51) and UT Martin (20). Coaches and sports information directors were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
“I appreciate the respect the other coaches and SIDs have for us in the preseason poll,” said Governors head coach Gary McClure. “However, we have a lot of work in front of us. We have 17 newcomers on this year’s team and will have six new bodies in the field for sure. It will be exciting to see how it all comes together.”
Austin Peay will begin the season with no one selected to the league’s preseason All-OVC squad. In fact, the Govs have just one All-OVC pick returning from their record-tying eight selections last season. Senior catcher P.J. Torres was a second-team All-OVC selection last season, but was edged in preseason voting by Eastern Kentucky catcher Sean Hagan.
“P.J. was our rock behind the plate last season,” said McClure. “We couldn’t have asked him for any more than he gave us, nearly catching 90 percent of our innings. We’ll get (right fielder) Rolando Gautier back and that will help us in the outfield. Plus, (starting pitcher) Zach Hall returns to the mound and will help anchor our rotation again this season.
“We’ll be young, but we will be talented. With P.J., Rolando and Zach out there we have the senior leadership to help keep us steady as the season goes along. I believe it will all come together in time for conference play.”
Tennessee Tech enters the campaign with six preseason All-OVC picks, led by senior first baseman Zach Stephens who was the Preseason Player of the Year pick. Jacksonville State saw three players named to the preseason squad, including junior reliever Travis Stout, who was the league’s Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
The 2014 regular season begins Friday, Feb. 14 with all 11 OVC teams in action. Austin Peay begins regular-season action with a 3:30 p.m., Friday contest against Iowa, starting a three-game weekend series.
The Ohio Valley Conference schedule starts March 7-9 with the Govs opening league action the following weekend when it hosts Eastern Illinois, March 14-16. The 2014 campaign will culminate with the 2014 OVC Championship which will be held for the fifth year in a row at The Ballpark at Jackson in Jackson, May 21-25.