2014 College Preview: Big South

BA breaks down the Big South, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.

Big South Conference

1. Ben Smith, lhp, Coastal Carolina
2. Ashton Perritt, rhp/of, Liberty
3. Andrew Barnett, rhp, Gardner-Webb
4. Matt Fraudin, rhp, Gardner-Webb
5. Alex Close, c/1b, Liberty
6. Mike Krumm, lhp, High Point
7. Kyle McKelvey, rhp, Liberty
8. Josh Reavis, c, Radford
9. Ryan Thompson, rhp, Campbell
10. Matt Winn, c, VMI
1. Seth Lamando, rhp, Coastal Carolina
2. Tyler Poole, rhp, Coastal Carolina
3. Michael Boyle, lhp, Radford
4. Zack Remillard, 3b, Coastal Carolina
5. Dalton Britt, ss, Liberty

Baseball Members (First Year): Campbell (2012), Charleston Southern (1983), Coastal Carolina (1983), Gardner-Webb (2009), High Point (1999), Liberty (1991), Longwood (2013), UNC Asheville (1985), Presbyterian (2009), Radford (1983), Virginia Military Institute (2004), Winthrop (1983).

Checking out: None.

Conference Tournament: Eight teams, double elimination. May 20-24 at Winthrop.

Team to Beat: Coastal Carolina.

The perennial juggernaut of the Big South, Coastal has been to 12 regionals in 13 years, and it has the pitching to remain atop the league. If Sr. RHP Tyler Herb can put last year's injury woes behind him and So. LHP Seth Lamando can build upon his 2013 conference freshman of the year performance, Coastal should have the league's best rotation, fronted by LHP Ben Smith. So. RHP Tyler Poole should be well suited for the closer job, as his low-to-mid-90s fastball plays up in relief and his splitter is an out pitch. The lineup is filled with question marks, but Sr. OF Colin Hering and So. 3B Zack Remillard should be able to anchor the heart of the order, and the coaches think Sr. 2B Jake Kane has All-America potential. 

Player of the Year: Ashton Perritt, of/rhp, Liberty.

A plus-plus runner with good range in center, emerging power potential and a 90-94 mph fastball off the mound, Perritt will anchor the lineup and the bullpen.

Pitcher of the Year: Ben Smith, lhp, Coastal Carolina.

Smith's 89-92 fastball plays up thanks to its late life and the quality of his changeup, and he also improved his 1-to-7 curve in the Cape League. 

Freshman of the Year: Dalton Moats, rhp, Coastal Carolina.

A projectable 6-foot-3 southpaw with a loose arm, Moats throws strikes with an 86-90 fastball, a curveball that flashes plus and a promising changeup. 

Ben Smith

Ben Smith (Photo by Robert Gurganus)

Notable Storylines: Liberty reeled off five straight wins to run through the loser's bracket and win the Big South tournament as the No. 5 seed last year, then beat Clemson twice to finish as runner-up in the Columbia Regional. Seven veteran position players from that team are back, and strike-throwing Sr. RHP Trey Lambert and Jr. RHP Carson Herndon are back to lead the rotation. Jr. C Alex Close and switch-hitting Jr. 1B Ryan Seiz (a transfer from Louisville) must provide Perritt some help in the middle of the lineup . . . Looking for a sleeper with a chance to make its first regional? Gardner-Webb brings back its entire weekend rotation and infield, plus two key outfielders. Jr. RHP Matt Fraudin (8-5, 2.88) throws four quality pitches for strikes, and Sr. RHP Andrew Barnett can run his fastball up to 94 mph and features a swing-and-miss slider, giving Gardner-Webb a strong one-two pitching punch. The Runnin' Bulldogs should live up to that name, with excellent team speed, led by SS Henry Rundio, OF J.J. Nazzaro and SS Ryan Hodge . . . Campbell got snubbed for a regional bid despite going 49-10 overall and posting the Big South's best conference record (19-5) and RPI (No. 42). The Camels must replace five seniors—their top five hitters, including national stolen base champ Ben McQuown—but national ERA champion Ryan Thompson (9-1, 0.88, 10 SV) is back in the fold. A 6-foot-7 sidewinder with excellent command of his 85-87 sinker and two breaking balls, Thompson has a resilient arm and will impact many games this spring, often for multiple innings at a time. Jr. RHP Heath Bowers (9-0, 1.69) is also back to lead an experienced rotation.