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COLLEGE BASEBALL
Panthers share second with Piedmont in league poll
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Ferrum College skipper Darren Hodges (left) confers with Hank Parsley (right) during a game played last season at W.B. Adams Field. The Panthers and Piedmont (Ga.) College share second place in the USA South Athletic Conference’s 2013 preseason coaches’ poll behind reigning league champion and title favorite Christopher Newport University. The Panthers open their season Sunday, Feb. 3 at Hampden-Sydney College. (Staff Photo by Steven Marsh)

Friday, January 18, 2013

By STEVEN MARSH - Sports Editor

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Ferrum College's baseball team, a year removed from a 20-15 finish, has been picked to finish second in the USA South Athletic Conference in a preseason coaches' poll released Wednesday.

It is the best conference finished predicted by the annual poll for the Panthers during Darren Hodges' tenure as skipper, which enters its sixth year when Ferrum opens its 2013 season at Hampden-Sydney College on Sunday, Feb. 3.

"It's nice to be recognized by the other coaches in the conference that we have the potential to be a pretty good club,' Hodges said in an email. "Having said that, it's important that as a team, we recognize preseason polls mean nothing in the big picture.

"Our play on the field will dictate our finish,' said Hodges, one of six head coaches at Ferrum and is an almunus of the college.

Hodges has an 88-85 career record.

"We are all excited to get (the season) going and this does add to the excitement,' Hodges said.

The Panthers share the second spot with Piedmont (Ga.) College, which is in its inaugural year of play in the USA South. Both teams garnered 46 points in the poll.

Reigning league champion Christopher Newport University CNU) is the preseason title favorite in its swan-song baseball campaign. At the end of the current academic year, CNU, led by 13th year head coach John Harvell, will leave the USA South for the Capital Athletic Conference for all sports except football.

The Captains swept the regular-season and tournament championships last year en route to a fifth place finish in the NCAA Division III College World Series. They were picked sixth in a preseason national poll conducted by Collegiate Baseball.

CNU received eight of nine available first-place votes and 64 points. Piedmont earned the other first-place vote.

Head coaches are not allowed to cast ballots for their teams in the poll.

Ferrum returns 10 starters and 21 letterwinners from last year's club, which finished 6-6 in league play. The Panthers did lose four-year starting shortstop Paul Jaglowski, an all-conference, all-region and all-state performer who was voted USA South Player of the Year last spring.

The Panthers' top returnee is senior catcher Wes Walker, the team's leading hitter last season who made a list of the top players at his position by Collegiate Baseball.

Also returning are position players Hank Parsley, Taryn Hayden, Matt Reynolds, Eddie McGrath and Brennen Iley and pitchers Chris Walker, Tyler Easterly, Adam Duncan and Justin Puentes.

Ferrum has not won the conference championship or qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament since 2007, the year in which the Panthers were two outs away from reaching the College World Series under former head coach Abe Naff.

Ferrum opens conference play Feb. 9-10 with a three-game series in Newport News against CNU and plays Piedmont in a three-game series on the road March 22-24. The Panthers play three-game home league series against Greensboro (N.C.) College, Methodist (N.C.) University, LaGrange (Ga.) College and North Carolina Wesleyan College.

Methodist (42 points) was picked fourth followed by Averett University (40 points) in fifth, Greensboro (38 points) in sixth, LaGrange (19 points) and N.C. Wesleyan (19 points) in a tie for seventh and Maryville (Tenn.) College (10 points) in ninth.

Like Piedmont, LaGrange and Maryville are in their inaugural conference baseball campaigns.

The top eight teams will earn berths in the USA South's postseason tournament, which moves from Burlington, N.C. to the cities of Wilson and Zebulon and is scheduled for April 11-14 as part of the conference's Spring Sports Festival.

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2013 USA South Baseball Coaches Preseason Poll

Rank Institution (first-place votes) Points

1. Christopher Newport University (8) 64

2. Ferrum College 46

2. Piedmont College (1) 46

4. Methodist University 42

5. Averett University 40

6. Greensboro College 38

7. LaGrange College 19

7. North Carolina Wesleyan College 19

9. Maryville College 10

 
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