January 25, 2011

Runner-up Hurricanes picked ninth in preseason PBC poll

By Chris Whitaker
The Americus Times-Recorder

AMERICUS — Georgia Southwestern was runner-up at the Peach Belt Conference tournament last May, and the Hurricanes received two votes in Collegiate Baseball's 2011 preseason poll.

But when the Peach Belt preseason coaches poll came out, GSW was picked ninth.

"I kind of stand by the idea that preseason polls don't mean a whole lot," said coach Bryan McLain, who enters his seventh season as head man for the Hurricanes. "Nobody knows what anybody's got until you get out there and play. But at the same time, it does hurt your ego a little bit to have people to think of you that far down. You get to a point where hopefully the only way to go is up. We're excited about the opportunity to do that."

Georgia College received six of 12 first-place votes, and Columbus State received four. The Bobcats and Cougars are ranked fourth and 11th, respectively, in the national poll. The Peach Belt has four teams ranked in the top 35, and UNC Pembroke joined GSW in receiving votes.

The Hurricanes finished last season with a school record for wins in finishing 29-19 overall and 12-12 in conference play. Their run at the PBC Tournament began with wins against Francis Marion and Flagler before surrendering a 5-3 lead to lose to Columbus State 6-5 in the championship.

Francis Marion, USC Aiken, North Georgia and Flagler were teams three through six while Pembroke, Armstrong Atlantic, GSW, Lander, Montevallo and Augusta State rounded out the poll.

GSW lost its top four offensive players, but does return Beau Parker (.446 batting average), Jared Allen (.296) and Paschal Poston (.287). Pitching should be the team's strength with Zach Whitman back after sitting out last season, along with Jody Sellars (7-4, 4.87 ERA) and Corey Hawes (2.32 ERA).

This year's recruiting class of 17 new faces is the biggest in school history, and it includes one Division I transfer and nine JUCO signees.

McLain said one good season isn't enough to be ranked among the best in the conference.

"The bottom line is we're still the new guy on the block," he said. "Just because you have one good year doesn't all of a sudden mean you get thrown up there with the big boys. You have to put some consistency together. If we have two to three solid years, we can be there every year out in the mix."

The Hurricanes open the season Feb. 1 at home against Valdosta State, which is ranked No. 14 in the preseason poll.

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