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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Conference previews: Southland

Kendall Rogers        
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The college baseball season is right around the corner, and as part of our 2013 College Baseball Preview, we take an in-depth look at each conference with predicted order of finish, Preseason All-Conference teams, top prospect lists and a complete team-by-team notes/scouting packet.

ALSO SEE: 2013 College Baseball Preview index

Overall/conference won-loss records from 2012 indicated; expectation level denoted -- College World Series= CWS, NCAA Super Regional= SR, NCAA Regional= R

No Team W L W L
1. Sam Houston State - R
24 9 40 22
2. SE Louisiana - R
20 13 39 21
3. Oral Roberts
X X 38 25
4. SFA 16 17 26 33
5. Central Arkansas
16 17 25 30
6. Lamar
14 19 22 30
7. Texas A&M-CC
14 19 24 33
8. Northwestern State 14 19 19 32
9. McNeese State 17 16 24 30
10. Nicholls State 13 19 26 28


Pos Name Class School Stats/Notes
C Anthony Azar Jr.
Sam Houston St. .354-3-38, Very solid hitter, extremely hard-nosed defensively
1B Brad Picha
.320-1-38, Good hitter w/ good eye at the plate
2B Phillip Lyons Jr. Nicholls State .335-1-36, very fluid and consistent defensively
SS Hunter Dozier
Jr. SFA .357-10-37, terrific hitter, great frame, rising prospect
3B Jose Trevino
So. Oral Roberts .317-13-57, Good improving hitter w/ excellent raw power
OF Will Watson Sr. Northwestern St. .335-0-20, low strikeout total, gets on base, 23 stolen bases
OF Colt Atwood So. Sam Houston St. .316-0-20, had a terrific fall, big step forward this season
OF Forrestt Allday
Sr. Central Arkansas .324-1-34, gets on base w/ 57 walks, .486 OBP
DH Kevin Miller
Sam Houston St. .315-2-33, gap power potential w/ nine doubles
UT Jonathan Gonzales Sr.
Texas A&M-CC .299-9-33, could pitch more than two apps. this season
SP Alex Gonzalez
Jr. Oral Roberts 2.30 ERA, 86 IP, 66 K, 24 BB, huge FB well into the 90s
SP Drew Bowen
Sr. Oral Roberts 1.95 ERA, 87.2 IP, 68 K, 21 BB, .245 OPP BA
SP Caleb Smith
Sam Houston St. 3.23 ERA, 97.2 IP, 82 K, 39 BB, huge FB up to 95 during fall
RP Dylan Hills Jr. SE Louisiana
1.64 ERA, 49.1 IP, 51 K, 19 BB, .181 OPP BA

Player of the Year: SS  Hunter Dozier, SFA
Pitcher of the Year: LHP Caleb Smith, Sam Houston State
Top Freshman: C Jameson Fisher, SE Louisiana
Top Transfer: UT Carter Burgess, Sam Houston State


2013 Draft Class

1. Caleb Smith, Jr., LHP, Sam Houston State
2. Hunter Dozier, Jr., SS, Stephen F. Austin
3. Alex Gonzalez, Jr., RHP, Oral Roberts
4. Cody Dickson, Jr., LHP, Sam Houston State
5. Drew Bowen, Sr., RHP, Oral Roberts

2014 Draft Class

1. Jose Trevino, So., 3B, Oral Roberts
2. Michael Clemens, So., RHP, McNeese State
3. Andro Cutura, So., RHP, Southeastern Louisiana

2015 Draft Class

1. Jameson Fisher, Fr., C, Southeastern Louisiana


* Central Arkansas finished in the middle of the pack last season, but has a golden opportunity to take a step forward this spring. The Bears welcome back a healthy dose of key cogs both at the plate and on the mound. UCA welcomes back six of its top eight hitters, including outfielders Jonathan Davis, Forrestt Allday and Logan Moon. Davis batted .333 with 11 doubles and 29 RBIs last season, while he also swiped 17 bases. Meanwhile, Allday batted .324 with 34 RBIs and a fantastic .486 OBP and Moon batted .323 with 20 RBIs. Also keep an eye on senior outfielder Ethan Harris, who’s an RBI machine as evidenced by his .286 average, four homers and 46 RBIs last season … The Bears have a few more question marks when it comes to their pitching staff, but it’s still an area that should be improved this season. UCA returns senior right-hander Caleb McClanahan and senior lefty Jeffery Enloe. McClanahan had a 4.32 ERA in 100 innings last season and limited teams to a .250 batting average, while Enloe tallied a 5.44 ERA in 89 1/3 innings of work. He also struck out 83 and walked 58, so command must improve. Also keep an eye on Clint Green (RHP), Bryce Biggerstaff (RHP) and Dylan Owen (RHP), who are each coming off solid campaigns.

* Lamar used to be a perennial mid-major power, but has taken a step back the past few seasons. The Cardinals hope to improve over last season’s unimpressive finish, and that could be possibility with the return of what should be a talented offense, as the Cards return five of their top six hitters including senior outfielder Darian Johnson, first baseman Brad Picha and senior designated hitter Seth Dornak. Johnson led the way last season with a .344 average and 13 doubles and 25 RBIs, Picha batted .320 with 17 doubles and 38 RBIs and Dornak batted .310 with three homers and 22 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Iowa Western CC transfer shortstop Sam Bumpers, who had an impressive fall … The Cardinals certainly have some work to do when it comes to the pitching staff, but they have depth in terms of the starting rotation. LU returns junior left-hander Jonathan Dziedzic and senior righty Eric Harrington. Dziedzic went 5-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 72 2/3 innings of work. He also struck out 68 and walked 34. Harrington had a 4.46 ERA in 101 innings last season, and also recorded 62 strikeouts and walked 28. Also keep an eye on sophomore right-hander Collin Chapman, who had a 5.73 ERA in 33 innings, while junior left-hander David Carver is a talented 6-foot-3, 180-pound, JUCO transfer.

* McNeese State actually finished the 2012 campaign with a winning record in the Southland Conference, but will need to do much more to emulate that success this season. The Cowboys welcome back just four key hitters from last year’s club, and are without leading hitter Seth Granger, who finished last season with a respectable .327 batting average. McNeese doesn’t return a single hitter who ended ’12 with a batting average over .300. Of those returning, keep an eye on junior infielder Taylor Drake, who batted .281 with seven doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs last season. Meanwhile, Connor Lloyd must vastly improve, but is a speed threat with nine stolen bases … The Pokes welcome back some talented arms, but the staff as a whole must improve to compensate for the expected offensive struggles. McNeese welcomes back senior left-hander Trey McGee, senior righty Blake Ware and righty Michael Clemens, among others. McGee made six starts (14 apps) last season with a 2.78 ERA in 35 2/3 innings. He also struck out 20 and walked 21, so command is something that must be rectified. Meanwhile, Ware started 12 games (16 apps) and had a 3.16 ERA in 99 2/3 innings. He struck out 56 and walked 39. Clemens made seven starts (20 apps) and had a 3.43 ERA in 63 innings. He also recorded six saves, with teams hitting him at just a .226 clip. Also keep an eye on talented righty Coby Miller, who made 11 appearances with a 4.74 ERA

* Nicholls State finished the 2012 campaign near the bottom of the conference standings, but hopes to take a significant step forward in 2013. The Colonels have some work to do both at the plate and on the mound. Nicholls State hit .280 last season, but has some very tough holes to fill, only returning four of its top eight hitters, including junior second baseman Philip Lyons, who hit .335 with five doubles, two triples, 36 RBIs and 16 stolen bases (23 attempts) last season. David Zorn also is back after hitting .321 with 14 RBIs, while Matt Richard (.277) and Mike Barba (.272) also are back. In terms of newcomers, keep an eye on junior third baseman Brandon Jackson, who put together an impressive fall … The Colonels have some tough relievers to replace this spring, but welcome back an experienced rotation with senior right-handers Michael Suk and Kory Delange and senior lefty Taylor Byrd leading the way. Suk had a 4.79 ERA last season, but hopes to improve this season with a FB sitting 90-93, up to 94 at times. His slider must improve. Meanwhile, Delange has a good changeup and is coming off a campaign where he had a 5.74 ERA in 42 1/3 innings, while Byrd returns after having meniscus surgery last year. Byrd is 90-93 with his FB, while he has a 79-81 SL and changeup as part of his repertoire. He has a loose arm with some sink on his fastball. Also keep an eye on senior right-handed closer Jordan McCoy, who’s coming off ACL surgery, and had a 5.20 ERA and seven saves in 27 2/3 innings last season.

* Northwestern State new head coach Lane Burroughs certainly has a tough job ahead of him this season with the Demons returning very few key players from last year’s club. Burroughs and his staff really have done a nice job on the recruiting trail the past few months, but it might be tough to make an instant transition. The Demons are without several key arms from last year’s club, with the headliners returning including senior right-hander AJ Funk and junior lefty Andrew Adams. Interestingly, Funk and Adams finished last season with earned-run averages of 7.19 and 7.91, respectively. The Demons get some assistance from junior righty Cameron Brewer, who returns from an injury, while JUCO transfer and 6-foot-2, 190-pound, right-hander Ashton Sivigliano is an interesting arm to watch. He was up to 94 during fall workouts with a good curveball. Also keep an eye on sophomore right-hander Logan Shaftner and junior lefty Joey Parrack. Shaftner has a good frame with good command of the strike zone, while Parrack is a 6-foot-5, pitcher, who is hard-nosed and has easy arm action. He, too, has command of the strike zone with a 90-plus fastball, plus changeup and average breaking ball … From an offensive standpoint, the Demons don’t have a lot of returning cogs from a team that hit .261 last season, but return leading hitters Matt Farmer and Will Watson. Farmer hit well over .300 in limited playing time last season, while Watson was a key cog the entire year, hitting .335 with 10 doubles, two triples, 20 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. Others to watch offensively include senior first baseman Todd Wallace, senior catcher Nick Purdy and freshman outfielder Nick Heath.

* Oral Roberts has endured many changes over the past year. The Golden Eagles have spent a long time as an NCAA postseason mainstay in the Mid-Continent Conference, turned Summit League, but now get a step up in competition with the move to the SLC. ORU is ready for the task at hand with an outstanding weekend rotation, led by senior right-hander Drew Bowen and junior righty Alex Gonzalez. Bowen had a 1.95 ERA in 87 2/3 innings last season and has a FB sitting in the 90-91 range with a very good slider. He has good command of three pitches. ORU also has an outstanding starter in Gonzalez, who had a 2.30 ERA in 86 innings last season. He also struck out 66 and walked 24, while teams only hit him at a .205 clip. Gonzalez has a 90-95 FB with a power 85-87 SL. He’s coming off an impressive summer at the Cape Cod League. Junior righty Gavin Ganz is slated to be the No. 3 starting pitcher for now, but Kurt Giller, who started 14 games last season, could hold that spot again if he adequately recovers from offseason shoulder surgery … ORU has some serious holes to fill from an offensive standpoint with only the return of four of its top eight hitters from last year’s club, including outstanding third baseman Jose Trevino, who hit .317 with 18 doubles, three triples, 13 homers and 57 RBIs last season. Also keep an eye on sophomore outfielder Logan Domenico, who hit .312 last season, while sophomore infielder Matt Brandy and junior outfielder Tyler Boss are coming off strong falls. The same can be said for junior third baseman Joey Migliaccio, who showed consistent/strong actions in the fall.

* Sam Houston State made a bold statement in David Pierce’s first campaign with the program last season, reaching the Houston Regional title game against Arkansas. The Bearkats look to build off that title game trip with a lot of talented personnel back this spring. First things first, SHSU will have an outstanding starting rotation with junior left-handed hurlers Caleb Smith and Cody Dickson leading the way. Smith has a power arm with a FB up to 95, while Dickson also has a very good arm, and has a solid curveball to go with his fastball. Also keep an eye on closer Michael Burchett, who made 32 appearances last season with 10 saves and a 3.35 ERA in 48 1/3 innings. In other news, the Bearkats welcome back pitchers Tyler Eppler (elbow bone spurs) and Jordan Church (knee meniscus), who had injuries last season … While the pitching staff certainly is impressive, SHSU also welcomes back a very solid offensive lineup with six leading hitters back this spring. Catcher Anthony Azar, who battled through injuries last season, is back after hitting .354 with three homers and 38 RBIs, while Colt Atwood, who had a terrific fall, is back after hitting .316 with 20 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. Also keep an eye on hard-hitting Ryan O’Hearn, who moves from right field to first base, while sophomore Carter Burgess is making a strong case for significant playing time.

* Southeastern Louisiana fell just short of reaching the NCAA postseason last year despite tallying an outstanding 39-21 overall record, so that’s a point of emphasis as coach Jay Artigues and his club readies for the 2013 campaign. The Lions have the weekend rotation and pitching to win the conference crown this spring. They welcome back an outstanding rotation with sophomore right-hander Andro Cutura and senior left-hander Jordan Hymel leading the way. Cutura made 12 starts last season and had a 3.30 ERA in 76 1/3 innings of work, while Hymel made 14 starts and tallied an impressive 2.64 ERA in 81 2/3 innings of work. Talented freshman right-hander Tate Scioneaux will round out the rotation, while junior righty Dylan Hills will close for the Lions. Hills tallied fantastic numbers last season with a 1.64 ERA in 49 1/3 innings of work, and has an 88-91 FB with a plus cutter at 82-84. In a bit of bad news, the Lions will be without pitcher Matt Pittari, who could miss all of the 2013 campaign because of a broken collarbone. He … The Lions have some holes to fill at the plate with the departures of three of their top seven hitters, including spark plug and outstanding second baseman Brock Hebert. With that said, they have high hopes for athletic Harry Slade, who hit .294 with 11 doubles, 37 RBIs and recorded 14 stolen bases last season, while junior Aaron Haag and freshman Jameson Fisher are worth watching. Haag is a 6-foot-4, first baseman, with plus power and athleticism, while Fisher, drafted in the 24th round by the Chicago Cubs last summer, is a polished hitter with good gap potential.

* Stephen F. Austin finished one game below .500 in the Southland Conference last season, and has the personnel to take a significant step forward this spring. The Lumberjacks welcome back a plethora of pitching this season, led by starters such as Cameron Gann (2.62), Chase Greening (4.92) and Brett Higginbotham (5.93), while right-handers Kevin Bishop and Fabian Arcizo are arms to watch. Bishop made 14 appearances last season with a 2.55 ERA while Arcizo made 15 appearances with a 3.23 ERA … While the Jacks are excited about their pitching staff, they might be even more pleased with the number of returning key hitters, five of six to be exact. Max Lamantia (.325) and Freddy Villalobos (.296) are a pair of returning hitters to watch, while junior 6-foot-4, 210-pound, shortstop Hunter Dozier is the bell cow of this club. Dozier ended last season with a .357 average, 22 doubles, 10 homers and 37 RBIs, while he also possesses good defensive skills that help him build his profile as an elite prospect.

* Texas A&M-Corpus Christi finished near the bottom of the SLC last season and hopes to experience more success this spring. The Islanders might have some question marks in some areas, but they welcome back some talented pitchers, including starters such as Tim Keller, Adam Hoelscher and Trevor Foss, while relievers such as Matt Danton and senior Franco Pace are back this season … From an offensive standpoint, the Islanders have some holes to fill, but also welcome back five of their top nine hitters, including Jordan Lee, who finished last season with a .333 average, five doubles, two homers and 18 RBIs. Also keep an eye on Brad Porras and Eric Weiss, who hit .281 and .266, respectively, last season.
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