The Baseball Observer Feb 2015 vol 1 - Page 49

Southern Arkansas chosen as preseason favorites in GAC baseball coaches’ poll & 9th in DII Poll Source: Southern Arkansas Athletics RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – The 2015 Great American Conference preseason baseball coaches' poll was released on Wednesday by the league office, and for the fourth-consecutive year, the Southern Arkansas baseball team tops the rankings as the preseason favorite in the GAC with seven of 11 first-place votes. Last season, the Muleriders finished third in the GAC regular season standings after going 18-12 in league play and then suffered a tough one-run loss in the opening round of the GAC Tournament. After that loss, however, the Muleriders showed championship resolve as they rattled off four-straight elimination game wins as they secured their third-consecutive GAC Tournament Championship. In doing so, the Muleriders earned an automatic bid to their seventh-straight NCAA Regional Tournament. Overall, the Muleriders ended the 2014 season with an overall record of 39-19; marking the 14th-straight season in which SAU baseball has won 30 or more games. This year's Mulerider baseball team, which was already tabbed as the No. 9-ranked team in Division II according to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason poll, enters the 2015 season with the return services of seven lineup regulars and three starting pitchers. Additionally, the Muleriders bolstered their roster with several transfer players that are expected to have an immediate impact. Highlighted among the returning position players are Jon Phillips, Carver Rademacher, Trevor Rucker, and William Townsend. All four would hit over .300 and be named AllGAC players while Rucker, an All-GAC Second-Team selection in the outfield, added an individual award as he was tabbed as the league's Freshman of the Year. In his first season as a Mulerider, Rucker would finish as the team's second-leading hitter at .342 (64-for-187) while also showing some power with 15 doubles, two triples, and six homeruns. Additionally, Rucker would swipe 35-of-38 (92%) bases for the year. Phillips, an All-GAC First-Team selection at third base, finished as the team's leading hitter at .346 (71-for-205). Rademacher, an All-GAC Honorable Mention choice at first base, led the team in homeruns (9) and finished second in RBIs (47). Townsend, an All-GAC Second-Team outfielder, was a defensive standout for the Muleriders as he made a seamless transition from first base to centerfield in 2014. As a result of his stellar defensive play, Townsend would garner the Rawlings/ABCA Gold Glove Award for the Central Region. Headlining the returning starting pitchers are Timothy Buchanan and Janson Carr. Both were named All-GAC pitchers with Buchanan earning second-team honors and Carr, honorable mention plaudits. The two would combine for a 12-6 record and a 3.53 ERA. Buchanan, who authored the fifth no-hitter in SAU history against Southern Nazarene, would strikeout 89 batters in 95.2 innings of work. Carr, a 6-4 right-hander, would sport the lowest ERA among pitchers at 2.23 and struck out 36 in 44.1 innings of work. The Muleriders open up their 2015 campaign with a doubleheader on Sunday, February 1 at home against Lindenwood University. Scheduled first-pitch is set for Noon. Following the Lindenwood twin-bill, the Muleriders will travel to Grand Prairie, Texas and serve as hosts of the eight-team, four-day QuikTrip DII Classic, which is being held at QuikTrip Park from Thursday, February 5 – Sunday, February 8.