Courtesy: Southland Conference
FRISCO - Defending Southland Conference tournament champion Sam Houston State is favored to win the 2018 regular season as voted on by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors. The Bearkats earned 18 first-place votes to top the preseason poll, the league announced Thursday.
After finishing third in the regular season in 2017 with a 19-11 conference record, Sam Houston won four straight in the Southland tournament, winning its second-straight title and fifth NCAA Regional berth in the last six seasons. The team went on to win four games, including three straight out of the consolation bracket, to win the Lubbock Regional and become the first Southland baseball program to advance to the Super Regional.
Sam Houston enters the 2018 season with a conference-best four preseason all-conference selections.
Southeastern Louisiana earned seven first-place votes and just 21 total points behind Sam Houston State with 261. The Lions finished second in the regular season in 2017 with a 20-10 Southland record. After bowing out in the second round of the Southland tournament, they went on to earn the No. 2 seed in the Baton Rouge Regional, defeating Conference USA champion Rice in the opening matchup.
Southeastern begins the season with three preseason all-conference first team members, headlined by senior third baseman Taylor Schwaner. The reigning Southland Player of the Year notched a .330 batting average last year against league foes in 112 at-bats, including 41 RBIs and nine home runs with a .670 slugging percentage.
Defending regular season champion McNeese earned one first-place vote and 246 total points to rank third in the preseason poll. The Cowboys capped the regular season with a 37-20 overall record (22-8 Southland) and return with the reigning Southland Hitter of the Year Shane Selman. The Lake Charles, La., native hit .362 last season against conference opponents in 127 at-bats, tallying 10 home runs.
Central Arkansas is picked to finish fourth with 202 points while Houston Baptist rounds out the top five with 185 points. Lamar (172), New Orleans (168), Stephen F. Austin (144), Nicholls (122), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (92) and Northwestern State (74) were voted sixth through 11th while Abilene Christian and UIW (40) are tied for 12th.
The 2018 season begins Friday, Feb. 16 with 13 games, starting when Houston Baptist welcomes Western Michigan at 2 p.m. CT.
Southland preseason polls are voted on by each program’s head coach and sports information director. Individuals rank the conference’s other 12 teams in predicted order of regular season finish, with first-place votes worth 12 points, second-place votes worth 11 points and so on to one point for 12th place.
Southland Conference Preseason Poll
1. Sam Houston State (18) - 282
2. Southeastern La. (7) - 261
3. McNeese (1) - 246
4. Central Arkansas - 202
5. Houston Baptist - 185
6. Lamar - 172
7. New Orleans - 168
8. Stephen F. Austin - 144
9. Nicholls - 122
10. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi - 92
11. Northwestern State - 74
12. Abilene Christian - 40
13. UIW - 40