College Preview

2006 Southern Conference Preview




HOW THEY'LL FINISH



Conference Overall


W
L
W
L
1. Charleston
27
3
48
15
2. Georgia Southern
18
11
38
22
3. Western Carolina
18
12
33
23
4. Elon
18
12
32
25
5. The Citadel
14
16
25
34
6. UNC Greensboro
17
13
31
22
7. +Furman
13
16
30
29
8. Davidson
13
17
26
24
9. Appalachian State
5
24
10
42
10. Wofford
7
23
17
37
(2005 records listed; 2006 national ranking in parentheses)
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface

Projected NCAA Teams (1): Charleston.
Conference Schedule: 27 games. Schedule begins March 10.
Conference Tournament: Eight teams, May 23-27 at Charleston, S.C. (The Citadel).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
* 2005 conference leader

C--Alex Entrekin, Sr., Davidson (.350-6-41). 1B--Greg Dowling, Sr., Georgia Southern (.400-5-57). 2B--Chris Cambell, Jr., Charleston (.379-*15-*87). 3B--Jay Heafner, Sr., Davidson (*.448-11-58). SS--Matt Matulia, Jr., The Citadel (.301-10-47). OF--Phillip Coker, Sr., Charleston (.386-1-35, 23 SB), Chris Price, Sr., Elon (.379-4-53); Steven Strausbaugh, So., Western Carolina (.367-12-51). DH--A.J. Davidiuk, Sr., Furman (.340-7-46). P--Dustin Evans, Jr., Georgia Southern (9-5, 4.14, 104 IP/97 SO); Graham Godfrey, Jr., Charleston (8-1, 0.93, 78 IP/88 SO at Wallace State-Hanceville, Ala., CC). Everett Teaford, Jr., Georgia Southern (9-3, 3.99, 120 IP/118 SO). RP--Danny Meszaros, So., Charleston (6-1, 3.73).

Player of the Year: Chris Campbell, 2b, Charleston.
Pitcher of the Year: Everett Teaford, rhp, Georgia Southern.

Top Newcomers: 1. Alex Garadbedian, c, Charleston (.255-3-29 at Miami). 2. Graham Godfrey, rhp, Charleston. 3. Brock Thornburg, rhp, Western Carolina (Jr., Tr.--Spartanburg Methodist JC).

PROJECTED TOP PROSPECTS, 2006-07 DRAFTS

1. Dustin Evans, rhp, Georgia Southern.
2. Graham Godfrey, rhp, Charleston.
3. #Alex Garadbedian, c, Charleston.

# Not eligible for 2006 draft

BEST TOOLS

Best Pure Hitter--Chris Campbell, Charleston. Best Raw Power--Grant Rembert, Elon. Best Strike-Zone Discipline--Chris Price, Elon. Best Athlete--Paul Bennett, Elon. Fastest Runner--Barrett Shaft, Western Carolina. Best Baserunner-- Phillip Coker, Charleston. Best Defensive Catcher--Drew Davis, Elon. Catcher/Best Arm--Blake Murphy, Western Carolina. Best Defensive First Baseman--Chris Swauger, The Citadel. Best Defensive Second Baseman--Chris Campbell, Charleston. Best Defensive Third Baseman--Jess Easterling, Charleston. Best Defensive Shortstop--Mark Matulia, The Citadel. Infielder/Best Arm--Jess Easterling, Charleston. Best Defensive Outfielder--Trent Weathers, The Citadel. Outfielder/Best Arm--Steven Stausburgh, Western Carolina. Best Fastball--Dustin Evans, Georgia Southern. Best Breaking Ball-- Everett Teaford, Georgia Southern. Best Control-- Everett Teaford, Georgia Southern.

SHORT HOPS

• A year after setting records with 25 conference wins and 47 wins overall, College of Charleston eclipsed both marks with 27 SoCon wins and 48 total wins. The Cougars put up all those wins because they put up so many runs. The team's .355 average and 174 doubles led the nation, and its 8.8 runs per game ranked fourth. Some of the key contributors to those numbers left for pro careers, including OF Brett Gardner (Yankees, third round), who tied for the national lead with 122 hits, ranked second in average (.447) and runs (85) and seventh in steals (38). 1B D.J. Wabick (Mets, 25th round) ranked third in doubles (27), fifth in hits (108) and batted .415. Still, this offense should still score in bunches with the return of junior 2B Chris Campbell (.379-15-87), who led the nation in RBIs and the conference in homers, and senior OF Phillip Coker (.497 on-base percentage). Three transfers will help fill out the lineup around them: sophomore C Alex Garabedian, who left Miami in search of more playing time after being a seventh-round pick out of high school in 2004, and OFs Larry Cobb (Manatee, Fla., JC) and Joey Friddle (South Carolina). Charleston also must replace its top two pitchers from last season, starter Ryan Edell (8-2, 3.67) and closer Brett Harker (5-0, 2.47, 15 SV), a fifth-round pick of the Phillies after winning SoCon pitcher of the year honors.

• Davidson senior Jay Heafner led the nation in batting while slugging .700 with a .533 on-base percentage. He also added 13 steals and used a 90 mph fastball to record six saves on the mound for good measure. Despite those numbers, he went undrafted last year. Heafner isn’t big at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, but he's an above-average runner with quick wrists and a patient approach at the plate. He'll move to shortstop for the Wildcats this season.

• Junior RHP Graham Godfrey should impress with his 90-93 mph fastball and power breaking ball after transferring to the College of Charleston following a junior-college all-America season, but Georgia Southern offers the league's best one-two punch in junior LHP Everett Teaford (9-3, 3.99), who offers the league's best breaking ball and command, and RHP Dustin Evans (9-5, 4.14), who owns the SoCon's best fastball. Evans is capable of throwing in the mid-90s.

Furman limped into its final 2005 conference series having lost four straight games and had to earn a sweep at Davidson just to make the SoCon tournament. The Paladins broke out the brooms and then took them to the league tournament, where they upset Charleston in the opener and then won three more games to win their second SoCon championship and make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991. RHP Nick Hollestegge saved all four tournament games to win most outstanding player honors, but RHP Ben Hunter (6-4, 4.38, 74 IP/89 SO), who emerged as Furman's best pitcher, transferred to Wake Forest for his sophomore year.

• Western Carolina, the last team to win the SoCon regular-season title before Charleston's run began in 2004, should push the Cougars. The Catamounts return 2005 SoCon freshman of the year Steven Strausburgh (.367-12-51) in right field and get senior RHP Caleb McConnell (5-4, 3.47) back into the rotation after he missed half of 2005 with elbow surgery.

• Elon returns a very experienced team with 11 juniors and 11 seniors; every regular position player and all but one of the team's top five pitchers are upperclassmen. Senior OF Grant Rembert should return power to the lineup. He batted .429-3-11 in nine games a year ago before missing the majority of the season after fouling a ball off his hand. He hit .340-7-60 as a junior and SoCon coaches feel his raw power is unmatched in the conference. The Phoenix aren't all healthy, though as projected ace Matt McSwain (5-1, 2.92, 62 IP/69 SO) will miss the year following Tommy John surgery.

• East Tennessee State, which dropped football, left for the Atlantic Sun Conference after going 31-22, 13-16 last season.