2015 College Conference Preview: Big South

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

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), Winthrop (1983).
Checking Out: None.
Team to Beat: Liberty. An already experienced Liberty team received a huge lift with the return of senior captains Ashton Perritt and Alex Close. Righthander Perritt (1-2, 1.52) moves from a closing role to Friday starter while also starting in center field (.279/.370/.388 with 18 stolen bases). First baseman Close (.323/.370/.512 with nine home runs) provides pop in the lineup and could also see some work on the mound with a fastball that has touched 91 mph. Head coach Jim Toman expects breakout years from sophomores third baseman Dylan Allen (.258/.395/.331) and first baseman Andrew Yacyk (.241/267/.405) in a lineup that could include up to five seniors. Senior lefthander Shawn Clowers (9-0, 0.83) and sophomore righthander Parker Bean (7-3, 2.95, Big South freshman of the year) round out a formidable weekend rotation behind Perritt.
Player of the Year: Alex Close, c/1b/rhp, Liberty. Taken in the 27th round by the Royals, Close returns for his senior season and is coming off a strong summer in the Coastal Plain League (.299/.397/.469 with seven doubles and six home runs). Close was second in the Big South in home runs (nine) and RBIs (48) and fifth in slugging percentage (.512) last season.
Pitcher of the Year: Ashton Perritt, rhp/of, Liberty. Perritt touched 95 mph as a closer, where he ranks second all-time in school history with 22 saves. Drafted in the 17th round by the Braves as a pitcher, Perritt has made strides with his changeup, which should help him make the adjustment to the weekend rotation.
Freshman of the Year: Dalton Ewing, of, Coastal Carolina. The lean, athletic outfielder from Senior Milton (Ga.) High, showcased above-average speed and an average-to-above-average arm at the National High School Invitational in March. The toolsy Ewing is expected to start for the Chanticleers in right field.
Tournament: Eight teams, double-elimination. May 19-23 at Gardner-Webb.

1. Kyri Washington, of Longwood
2. Dylan Nelson, rhp Radford
3. Ashton Perritt, rhp/of Liberty
4. Alex Close, c/1b/rhp Liberty
5. Casey Schroeder, c Coastal Carolina
6. Michael Boyle, lhp Radford
7. Matt Fraudin, rhp Gardner-Webb
8. Hunter Bryant, 3b UNC Asheville
9. Conor Lourey, rhp High Point
10. Nick Paxton, of Liberty