2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Preview

  Conference Overall
Team W L W L
Florida Gulf Coast 15 12 26 31
Mercer 15 12 38 21
Kennesaw State 15 11 34 25
South Carolina-Upstate 16 10 33 20
Stetson 15 12 35 23
North Florida 12 15 31 24
Lipscomb 14 13 25 30
East Tennessee State 8 19 23 32
Jacksonville 7 20 18 38
Northern Kentucky (Div. II) 36 22
Teams are listed in order of their projected 2013 finish. Records listed are 2012 records.
Projected NCAA Teams (1): Florida Gulf Coast.
Conference Schedule: 27 games, begins March 15.
Conference Tournament: Six teams, May 22-26 at Stetson.
Player of the Year: Clint Freeman, 1b/lhp, East Tennessee State.
Pitcher of the Year: Ricky Knapp, rhp, Florida Gulf Coast.
1. Hunter Brothers, rhp, Lipscomb
2. Michael Suchy, of, Florida Gulf Coast (2014)
3. Max Pentecost, c, Kennesaw State (2014)
4. Kurt Schluter, rhp, Stetson
5. Tyler Marcinov, of, North Florida
6. Sean Dwyer, of, Florida Gulf Coast
7. Chris Anderson, rhp/dh, Jacksonville
8. Tyler Moore, rhp, North Florida
9. Travis Dean, rhp, Kennesaw State
10. Ricky Knapp, rhp, Florida Gulf Coast
1. Jordan Hillyer rhp, Kennesaw State (HS—Dacula, Ga.)
2. K’Shawn Smith, 2b/ss, Stetson (Tr.—Indian River, Fla. JC)
3. Kai Simmons, ss, Kennesaw State (HS—Simmons, Ga.)
4. Carlos Garmendia, 3b, Stetson (HS—Miami)
5. Michael Babb, of, Jacksonville (HS—Jacksonville, Fla.)



• So much has changed for the conference in the last 15 years, from its membership to its very name. Stetson coach Pete Dunn, entering his 34th season, has been a constant, and the Hatters have righted the ship after three straight losing seasons from 2008-2010, reaching regionals in 2011 before missing out last season. Most of the ’11 team has moved on, with 16 newcomers on the roster, but Sr. RHP Kurt Schulter, who was the A-Sun’s pitcher of the year that season, remains. He wasn’t right physically for much of 2012, with various aches and muscle strains but no surgery, and plummeted from 8-0, 1.40 as a sophomore to 5-3, 5.45 as a junior. He pitched more innings in 2012, though, and was healthy enough to pitch in the Cape Cod League last season. The Hatters need the best-case scenario Schluter with help from live-armed LHP Cameron Griffin, who has made 64 relief appearances the last two seasons but now moves into the rotation.

Jacksonville entered last season as the league favorite but nosedived to an 18-38 mark, thanks as much to a surprising league-worst 237 runs (despite Twins third-rounder  rett Walker) as to a league-worst 4.68 team ERA. The team’s top returning player, speedster Taylor Ratliff, transferred to Florida. Head coach Terry Alexander has announced his 23rd season will be his last, and his final roster is heavy on junior-college transfers such as Jr. C Drew Luther out of Fullerton (Calif.) JC. According to JU coaches, the NCAA ruled Luther ineligible this fall due to a transcripts snafu. Instead of bailing, Luther paid his own way to school in the fall while appealing the ruling, and was unable to practice for much of the fall. The NCAA ruled him eligible contingent on him passing his 18-hour fall course load, which he did, and he’s slated to start this spring.

Florida Gulf Coast earns the nod as league favorite thanks to returnees such as Jr. RHP Ricky Knapp, son of the Dodgers minor league pitching coordinator. As such, the younger Knapp has a good feel for pitching and fills up the zone with quality strikes, though he lacks a true plus pitch. The Eagles must improve on last year’s league-worst offense (.239, just 97 runs in 27 A-Sun games) and hope physical 6-foot-3, 225-pound So. OF Michael Suchy gives them a lift. After hitting just .195 in 123 spring at-bats, Suchy broke out in the Northwoods League, hitting .349 with eight homers and 17 stolen bases. However, his swing-and-miss issues persisted; for the calendar year, he had 109 strikeouts in 369 at-bats. They Eagles also could use a breakout from touted Jr. Sean Dwyer, an unsigned 15th-round pick in 2010 who improved from .234 as a freshman to .297 last season. Dwyer has hit just six homers in two seasons total, however.

South Carolina-Upstate posted its first winning record in its fifth Division I season and nearly won the A-Sun regular-season crown. League player of the year 6-foot-6, 210-pound RHP/OF Gaither Bumgardner (.376/.439/.463) returns for his senior season and is expected to return to a two-way role after focusing on hitting last season. Bumgardner was just 1-11, 6.65 in his first two seasons on the mound. East Tennessee State will rely on two-way players heavily, including OF/LHP Clint Freeman (.365/.405/.550; 1-1, 5.01, 41 IP/24 SO), who moves into the weekend rotation. Freeman hit .379/.417/.552 last summer in the Alaska League while again struggling on the mound (0-5, 6.08).

• The league’s top prospect is a familiar name: RHP Hunter Brothers (1-2, 3.52, 2 SV) is following in the footsteps of his older brother, LHP Rex Brothers, who went from Lipscomb to the Rockies’ major league bullpen in short order. The younger Brothers has similar velocity (touching 96 mph) and a plus slider. While Rex started in college, Hunter is the Bisons’ projected closer, especially if a trio of seniors—RHPs Josh Cotham and Davey Hackett and LHP Blake Fonfara—hold their own as weekend starters.

Northern Kentucky plays its first season at the D-I level as a full member of the A-Sun. (Belmont, which won the league tournament the last two seasons as well as last year’s regular-season crown, moved on to the Ohio Valley.) The Norse were a consistent Division II winner, posting winning seasons in each of coach Todd Asalon’s 12 seasons.