2014 College Preview: Southern

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

1. Sam Howard, lhp, Georgia Southern
2. Jeremy Null, rhp, Western Carolina
3. Max Povse, rhp, UNC Greensboro
4. Tripp Martin, 3b, Samford
5. Alex Leach, 1b, Appalachian State
6. Aaron Attaway, ss, Western Carolina
7. Tyler Powell, rhp, Western Carolina
8. Joe McGillicuddy, rhp, Elon
9. James Reeves, lhp, The Citadel
10. Jose Lazaro, rhp, Elon
1. Dillon Dobson, ss, Appalachian State
2. Ryan Clark, rhp, UNC Greensboro
3. Luke Leftwich, rhp, Wofford
4. Skylar Hunter, rhp, The Citadel
5. Jaylin Davis, of, Appalachian State

Southern Conference

Baseball Members (First Year): Appalachian State (1972), The Citadel (1937), Davidson (1992), Elon (2004), Furman (1937), Georgia Southern (1992), UNCG (1998), Samford (2009), Western Carolina (1977), Wofford (1998). 

Checking out: None.

Conference Tournament: Ten teams, single-game play-in for bottom four seeds, then double-elimination followed by a single championship game. May 20-25 at Charleston, S.C.

Team to Beat: Western Carolina.

The Catamounts return seven everyday starters and two weekend starters from a team that won the SoCon regular-season crown and just missed grabbing an at-large berth. With ace Jeremy Null and closer Tyler Powell (who works at 90-94 and fanned 55 in 38 innings last year), WCU has big arms with strikeout stuff at both ends of a deep staff. Seniors Jordan Smith and T.J. Fussell give the rotation two more reliable veterans with feel for pitching and fastballs that reach the low 90s. With seniors behind the plate (Adam Martin), at shortstop (Aaron Attaway) and in center field (Cody Jones), WCU should be strong up the middle. Martin and Jr. 1B Jacob Hoyle provide thump behind Attaway in the lineup. 

Player of the Year: Aaron Attaway, ss, Western Carolina.

A four-year starter at shortstop, Attaway (.363/.441/.592, 11 HR, 14 SB) is a leadoff man with pop, speed and superb instincts in all facets of the game.

Pitcher of the Year: Jeremy Null, rhp, Western Carolina.

A 6-foot-8, 230-pound behemoth with a 90-93 fastball and a swing-and-miss slider, Null went 9-2, 3.36 last spring and was solid in the Cape League. 

Freshman of the Year: Heath Quinn, of, Samford.

An unsigned Indians 12th-round pick who turned down third-round money, Quinn has five legit tools and an advanced approach. 

Jacob Hoyle

Jacob Hoyle (Photo by Tom Priddy)

Notable Storylines: Expect The Citadel to be WCU's greatest competition for the league title, and another contender for an at-large regional bid. The balanced Bulldogs expect nine upperclassmen to earn starting roles. Switch-hitting Jr. 2B Mason Davis and Sr. CF Hughston Armstrong provide speed, while Jr. DH Bo Thompson (14 HR), Sr. RF Tyler Griffin (12 HR) and Sr. 1B Calvin Orth (7 HR) deliver most of the power, though six returning Bulldogs hit five or more homers last year. So. RHP Skylar Hunter (13 SV) gives the bullpen a talented anchor with a 92-93 fastball and hard curve . . . Defending SoCon tournament champion Elon brought in a large recruiting class to help replace 16 players from last year's team. Junior-college righties Joe McGillicuddy and Jose Lazaro should assume prominent roles this spring; McGillicuddy pitches at 90-92 and touches 94 and flashes a plus curveball, while Lazaro works at 90-92 and features a quality changeup and slider. The top freshman is corner infielder/outfielder Nick Zammarelli, whose lefthanded bat speed hints at big power potential . . . Georgia Southern and UNC Greensboro have potential top-five-rounds picks fronting their rotations. For the Eagles, Jr. LHP Sam Howard ran his fastball up to 92 and showed a decent slider last summer in the Cape Cod League. For the Spartans, 6-foot-8 Jr. RHP Max Povse has improved his command of a 90-93 fastball and showed the makings of a good breaking ball and changeup in the Valley League, where he ranked as the top prospect . . . Samford enters a new era without Philip Ervin and C.K. Irby, but the Bulldogs reloaded with a strong recruiting class, headlined by Quinn and RHP Jared Brasher (No. 371 in the BA 500 last year), who can run his fastball up to 94. Fourth-year Jr. 3B Tripp Martin, who struggled for two years at Coastal Carolina and sat out last year after transferring, looks ready to become one of the SoCon's top power hitters and could be drafted in the first five rounds. Sr. RHP Chase Traffica, a former ace for Louisiana-Lafayette, should slide into the Friday starter job.