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2018 Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 24 South Alabama

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2017 Record: 40-21 (22-8 in Sun Belt); reached regional. Final ranking: NR Coach (Record at school): Mark Calvi (247-171, six years). Top 200 2018 Draft Prospects: OF Travis Swaggerty (15).

The good news: A largely unheralded freshman class from two years ago has helped carry the Jaguars to back-to-back regional appearances. Those freshmen are now juniors, and they should arm South Alabama with plenty of offensive firepower. That group is led by breakout center field prospect Travis Swaggerty—the No. 2 prospect for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team this summer. It also includes outfielder Dylan Hardy, who led the Sun Belt in hitting last season and would play in center if not for Swaggerty’s presence. The team’s leading home run hitter from a year ago, Wells Davis, also returns to man first base, and the left side of the infield should be set with veterans Brendan Donovan and Drew LaBounty at third and short, respectively. South Alabama should be a highly offensive club as well as defensively sound.

The bad news: While the Jaguars should be set from an offensive standpoint, pitching will be more of a work in progress due to the departures of ace Randy Bell’s 107 innings and closer Matthew Peacock’s 10 saves. The Jaguars have a pair of seniors projected to front the rotation in lefty Zach Melton, who’s been hampered by injuries in past years, and righthander Tyler Carr, who can flirt with mid-90s velocity despite his smaller frame. From there, South Alabama has plenty of intriguing rotation options. The Jaguars could go to pitchability lefty Andy Arguelles; junior college transfer Patrick McBride, who throws 90-92 with downhill angle; or could turn to hard-throwing freshman JoJo Booker, who was the second-highest drafted prep prospect (fifth round) not to sign. At the back end of games, redshirt junior Nick DeSantis is slated to close once he fully recovers from Tommy John in early March.

Returner to know: Travis Swaggerty, OF: The No. 2 prospect for Team USA this summer, Swaggerty is a potential five-tool player and an offensive spark plug who offers both speed and power. He stole 19 bases in 25 attempts last season while slugging 11 homers and drew hefty praise from scouts. A gritty self-made player, Swaggerty epitomizes South Alabama’s blue-collar culture. The Jags will go as far as he can take them.

Path to Omaha: South Alabama continues to knock on the door with back-to-back regional appearances but hasn’t yet taken that next step. Mark Calvi’s squad seems right on the cusp of making a postseason push, however. Last season, it won the first game of the Hattiesburg Regional against No. 2-seeded Mississippi State but couldn’t close out a regional win. With a powerful, veteran-heavy team, this year could be South Al’s best chance to turn heads nationally.

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2018 lineup:

C Carter Perkins, Jr. .250/.314/.347 | 124 AB | 1 HR | 18 RBI
1B Wells Davis, Jr. .293/.412/.532 | 205 AB | 14 HR | 57 RBI
2B Hunter Stokes, So. .302/.426/.452 | 126 AB | 3 HR | 19 RBI
3B Brendan Donovan, Jr. .336/.448/.564 | 211 AB | 9 HR | 46 RBI
SS Drew LaBounty, R-Sr. .301/.447/.444 | 196 AB | 4 HR | 42 RBI
LF Dylan Hardy, Jr. .363/.424/.498 | 215 AB | 5 HR | 30 RBI
CF Travis Swaggerty, Jr. .356/.484/.571 | 219 AB | 11 HR | 60 RBI
RF Michael Sandal, R-Fr. Did not play—redshirt
DH Colton Thomas, Sr. .327/.444/.505 | 101 AB | 4 HR | 18 RBI
LHP Zach  Melton, Sr. 2-1, 6.41 ERA | 27 IP | 27 SO | 0 SV
RHP Tyler Carr, Sr. 7-2, 4.64 ERA | 78 IP | 66 SO | 0 SV
RHP Andy Arguelles, So. 3-3, 5.37 ERA | 55 IP | 51 SO | 0 SV
RP Nick DeSantis, R-Jr. 3-0, 4.70 ERA | 15 IP | 22 SO | 0 SV
RP Zach Greene, Jr. Transfer—St. John’s River State (Fla.) JC

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