*2011 automatic qualifier. 2011 NCAA regional participants in bold (2011 records listed; 2012 national rankings in parentheses)
|BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE|
|HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|Virginia Military Institute||14||13||27||24|
|Projected NCAA Teams (1): Coastal Carolina.|
|Conference Schedule: 24 games; begins March 30.|
|Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 22-26 at High Point.|
|Player of the Year: Brad Zebedis, c/1b, Presbyterian.|
|Pitcher of the Year: Josh Conway, rhp, Coastal Carolina.|
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2012-2013|
|1. Josh Conway, rhp, Coastal Carolina|
|2. Eddie Butler, rhp, Radford|
|3. Blake Forslund, rhp, Liberty|
|4. Brad Zebedis, c/1b, Presbyterian (2013)|
|5. Daniel Bowman, of, Coastal Carolina|
|6. Jaime Schultz, rhp, High Point|
|7. Ted Blackman, of, Coastal Carolina|
|8. Matt Hillsinger, of, Radford|
|9. Bud Jeter, rhp, Presbyterian (2013)|
|10. Malcolm Clapsaddle, rhp, High Point|
|1. Ted Blackman, of, Coastal Carolina (Tr.—St. Petersburg, Fla., JC)|
|2. Mike Miedzianowski, ss/2b, High Point (HS—Stuart, Fla.)|
|3. Malcolm Clapsaddle, rhp, High Point (Tr.—Santa Fe, Fla., CC)|
|4. Javier Reynoso, lhp, Coastal Carolina (HS—Tampa)|
|5. Patrick McClendon, ss, Winthrop (HS—South Lake, Texas)|
• Coastal Carolina has ruled the Big South roost, winning the regular season five straight years. The Chanticleers have lost most of the key pieces from their 2010 club that won a regional and went 25-0 in league play, yet remain the favorite thanks to holdovers such as Jr. RHP Josh Conway (8-2, 2.69, 77 IP/70 SO) and Sr. OF Daniel Bowman (.277/.340/.508, 12 HR, 11 SB), a four-year starter with 40 career home runs. Coastal’s newcomers are a mix of freshman arms, such as LHPs Ben Smith and Javier Reynoso, and junior-college bats who will play key roles in the lineup. OF Ted Blackman got 128 at-bats as a freshman at Miami in 2009; after missing a year, he played juco ball in 2011, then was MVP and batting champion in the Florida Collegiate Summer League, hitting .425/.582/.604 with 28 stolen bases. DH Bryce Dial spent a year at Georgia Southern before a juco detour, where he hit 18 homers. Coastal plays a home-heavy schedule, opening the season with five straight tournaments on campus and at nearby BB&T Coastal Field, home of the Class A Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Virginia, St. John’s, N.C. State, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Michigan and Connecticut are among the teams playing in the events.
• Presbyterian was headed for a winning record before a sweep at the hands of Coastal Carolina led to a 15-game losing streak. They still improved by nine victories over 2010, and the program’s first winning season as a Division I team is within reach. So. Brad Zebedis, the league’s triple-crown winner last season at .425/.492/.717, shifts full-time to catcher after mostly playing first base and DH last season. Sr. OF Tony Micklon (.343/.418/.599, 12 HR) also will play some catcher, and the pitching staff should be deeper. Scouts like the upside of So. RHP Bud Jeter (5-7, 5.76), a projectable 6-foot-3, 185-pounder with potentially three average pitches.
• High Point coach Craig Cozart expects the Panthers to field their best team since he arrived in 2009. The pitching staff is deeper than it has been and features three power-armed Jr. RHPs that can reach the low 90s in the weekend rotation: Malcolm Clapsaddle, Jacob Newberry and Jared Avidon. The bullpen also has a hard-throwing anchor in R-So. RHP Jaime Schultz (5-0, 4.84, 58 IP/68 SO), who flashes mid-90s heat and a swing-and-miss curveball. The centerpiece of the veteran lineup is Jr. OF Ryan Retz (.288/.347/.459, 7 HR, 43 RBI), the team’s leading home run hitter a year ago.
• Liberty has challenged for regional bids the last two seasons but has wound up on the wrong side of the bubble. The Flames will need more productivity from hard-throwing RHP Blake Forslund (1-2, 8.29), a Virginia transfer who has hit 97 mph with his fastball in the past. He’s moving to the bullpen and trying to throttle down a bit to throw more consistent strikes. He’s also added a cutter to his repertoire. Last year’s projected closer, Jr. RHP Josh Richardson, missed most of the year after having Tommy John surgery. He’s healthy enough to hit and is slated to be the everyday shortstop, and should return to the mound by May at the latest.
• Campbell, a charter Big South member in 1983, returns to league after a 17-year run in the Atlantic Sun. The Camels won just three league games in the A-Sun last season, however.