Chants, Gamecocks, Tigers open 2012 baseball practice

College baseball officially opened practice on Friday, which was particularly noteworthy in the Palmetto State.

Two-time defending College World Series champion South Carolina began its long quest for a three-peat in Columbia, Clemson began hoping bounce back from a disappointing end to the 2011 season and Coastal Carolina started looking for replacements to fill in the roster for another run to the NCAA Regionals.

The Chanticleers, picked as the 2012 Big South Conference preseason favorite to repeat as champion, took part in an intrasquad scrimmage despite the threat of rain. In addition to the weather cooperating, Coastal Carolina received some good news Friday as the team was ranked 35th in the 2012 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Division I preseason poll.

The Chants only return three seniors and nine lettermen from last year’s squad, which won its fifth-straight Big South regular season and tournament titles while playing in an NCAA Regional for the 10th time in 11 years. However, back is preseason Big South Pitcher of the Year Josh Conway, one of ESPN.com’s top 15 returning seniors Daniel Bowman and Rich Witten, runner-up for the preseason Big South Player of the Year. Rounding out the list of returning lettermen is Jacob May, Tucker Frawley, Tripp Martin, Ryan Connolly, Tyler Herb and Aaron Burke.

Overall, 25 new faces dot the 2012 Coastal Carolina roster, including 2011 Major League draft picks Tyler Poole (RHP), Javier Reynoso (LHP/DH), Joe Perricone (RHP) and Patrick Corbett (RHP). Two players, catchers Greg Brodzinski and Will Remillard will redshirt the 2012 season per NCAA transfer rules. Brodzinski comes to Coastal from the University of South Carolina and Remillard was Temple’s starter as a true freshman last year.

“Starting this year is completely different from last year,” CCU coach Gary Gilmore said. “In fact, you have to go back a long way to find a team with so many new players. Don’t be mistaken though. This group is very talented and versatile. Because of that, there is tremendous competition for every spot on the field and these guys are some of the hardest working players we have had. It will be my job to find the right mixes and matches to put the best group on the field. We may struggle early in the season while (we look for the right mix) is done or we could just as easily come out and be successful. Regardless, I do think we have all the pieces to be among the top teams at year’s end.”

South Carolina, ranked second in NCBW poll, and Clemson, ranked 17th, join Coastal Carolina in opening the season Feb. 17. Coastal hosts the Caravelle Resort Tournament at Watson Stadium/Vrooman Field that weekend, playing 23 straight home games before going on the road.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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