January 31, 2012

Saints Picked to Finish 6th in Peach Belt Preseason Poll

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Steve Cunha, sjcunh2033@northgeorgia.edu

AUGUSTA, GA – The North Georgia baseball team has been picked to finish 6th in the Peach Belt Conference according to a preseason poll of the league's head coaches released on Friday afternoon.

Francis Marion earns the top spot in the poll a year after winning the regular season PBC championship, earning 10 of a possible 12 first place votes.

Columbus State sits second after receiving one first place vote and four second place votes, while Georgia College rounds out the top three receiving the final first place vote, one second place vote, and four third place votes. 

UNC Pembroke sits fourth, just four points behind the Bobcats, after winning the PBC tournament last year. Armstrong is fifth, followed by North Georgia who received one second place vote, six fifth place votes and four sixth place votes.

USC Aiken is seventh followed by Lander, Augusta State, Flagler, Georgia Southwestern and Montevallo.

The Saints enter the 2012 season one of six teams in the PBC ranked in the top 40 in the country by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's. Setting the pace is Francis Marion (2) followed by Columbus State (15), UNC Pembroke (19), Georgia College (23), Armstrong (25) and North Georgia (35).

After falling to Augusta State in the PBC tournament semifinals a year ago, the Saints look to get over the hump this year as they return six starters and seven pitchers.

Leading the way among the returners are seniors Jordan Erisman and Blake Hobby and juniors Kenny Bellavance and Derek Hooper.

Erisman started and played in all 54 games for the Saints last year being named to the Peach Belt All-Tournament team and he earned All-Academic honors, while Hobby was named first team All-Region by both the ABCA and Daktronics last year and was a preseason All-American selection this year by ABCA/Rawlings.

Bellavance is coming off a year that saw him earn First Team All-PBC honors and he was the lone Saint represented on the preseason All-Conference team this year, while Hooper is coming off a sophomore campaign where he was named second team All-Region by Daktronics.

Head coach Tom Cantrell returns for his 13th season with a record of 475-276 at North Georgia. Cantrell looks to lead the Saints back to their first NCAA regional appearance since 2008.

The Saints open the 2012 season on Friday, February 3, when they travel to Valdosta, Georgia, to play in the Comfort Suites Classic at Billy Grant Field.

North Georgia opens their conference schedule on February 25, when they host UNC Pembroke and it concludes on May 9-13 with the PBC Tournament in Columbus, Georgia, at Golden Park.

The Peach Belt preseason coaches poll is below.  Teams were given 11 points for a first place vote, 10 for a second and so on.  Coaches were not permitted to rank their own teams.

Rank Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th Total
1. Francis Marion 10 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 119
2. Columbus State 1 4 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 102
3. Georgia College 1 1 4 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 95
4. UNC Pembroke 0 4 2 2 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 91
5. Armstrong Atlantic State 0 1 0 3 3 3 0 1 0 0 0 77
6. North Georgia 0 1 0 0 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 76
7. USC Aiken 0 1 1 1 1 0 2 3 1 1 0 61
8. Lander 0 0 0 1 0 0 6 2 2 0 0 52
9. Augusta State 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 3 3 2 0 43
10. Flagler 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 2 2 4 27
11. Georgia Southwestern 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 5 2 25
12. Montevallo 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 2 6 24