Friday, January 24, 2014
AUGUSTA, GA – The USC Aiken Pacers have been selected as the favorite to capture the 2014 Peach Belt baseball championship in a poll of the league's head coaches released on Friday. The Pacers, who were also the preseason favorite in 2010, received nine of a possible 11 first-place votes in the poll for 130 points, outdistancing Lander in second place. Montevallo was third in the voting with Georgia College in fourth, UNC Pembroke in fifth and Columbus State sixth. Francis Marion, Armstrong, a tie between Young Harris, North Georgia and Flagler, Georgia Southwestern and Georgia Regents rounded out the voting.
USC Aiken captured the PBC regular-season title in 2013 with a 24-6 league record, 42-13 overall. The Pacers were ranked #1 in the nation for two straight weeks last season and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. USCA is ranked #2 in the CollegeBaseballLineup.com preseason poll for 2014 with nine seniors returning to the lineup. Also back are first-team All-Conference first baseman Ty Barkell, All-Conference second baseman Ryan Metzler, All-Conference pitcher Derek Beasley and shortstop Sean Miller, the 2013 PBC Freshman of the Year.
Lander set a school record in 2013 with 19 conference wins and finished 35-16 overall. The Bearcats were nationally-ranked in 16 weekly polls last year, reaching as high as #2 in the nation for two weeks. The Bearcats return 11 seniors from last year's team including first-team All-Conference outfielder Patrick Grady, first-team starting pitcher Dylan Wolchik, second-team shortstop Erik Lunde, second-team outfielder Weston Lawing and second-team pitcher Chess Malone.
Montevallo finished one win shy of reaching the NCAA Division II Southeast Region tournament a year ago following a 3-2 loss to Georgia College in the conference tournament championship game. For 2014, the Falcons return six seniors including All-Conference designated hitter Vinny Rodriguez and All-Conference outfielder Zack Willoughby. Overall, seven position starters return for UM along with two starting pitchers.
The 2014 season will begin on Saturday, Feb. 1, and continue on to the 2014 PBC Tournament May 10-11 at Roberto Hernandez Stadium in Aiken, S.C. The PBC also welcomes new Georgia Regents head coach Jason Seller and new Armstrong coach Calvain Culberson for the 2014 season.