Chants picked to six-peat as Big South baseball champs

Coastal Carolina has been selected by the league’s coaches as the preseason favorite to repeat as Big South champion, while Chanticleer junior pitcher Josh Conway was voted preseason Pitcher of the Year.

Coastal, which has won five consecutive regular season and tournament conference titles, received 10 of the 11 first place votes. Liberty received the other first place vote to finish second in the preseason poll, followed by Radford, Winthrop, Gardner-Webb, Charleston Southern, VMI, High Point, Campbell, Presbyterian and UNC Asheville.

Conway was 8-2 last season with a 2.69 ERA, adding three saves. The Smithsburg, Md., native struck out 70 in 77.0 innings, allowing just 23 walks and an opponent batting average of .241. His eight wins ranked 77th (tied) in the NCAA and fifth in the Big South while his 2.69 ERA ranks 10th in the CCU single-season list in the Division I era.

For his two-year career, Conway owns a 10-2 record with a 2.92 ERA and four saves in 39 appearances (17 starts). The right-hander has pitched 123.1 innings, striking out 103 and posting a .237 opponent batting average.

This past summer, Conway played in the prestigious Cape Cod League, making the All-Star team and being tabbed the 19th-best prospect in the league by Baseball America.

Presbyterian sophomore Brad Zebedis was voted the preseason Player of the Year. Coastal Carolina senior first baseman Rich Witten was the runner-up for the Player of the Year honor.

In addition to Conway and Witten, Coastal returns starters Tucker Frawley (catcher), Jacob May (outfield/second base) and Daniel Bowman (right field). Bowman was named to ESPN.com’s list of the nation’s top 15 returning seniors by position for the 2012 season. He is just the eighth player in Big South history to hit double-digit home runs in three consecutive seasons (12 in 2011, 15 in 2010 and 13 in 2009).

Also back for the Chants is third baseman Tripp Martin, who started 31 games as freshman in 2011 and could play short stop this season, and pitchers Ryan Connolly, Tyler Herb and Aaron Burke.

Coastal will have 23 new faces this season, including three players who redshirted with the squad last season.

Coastal Carolina will open the 2012 season playing its first 23 game at home, hosting five home tournaments from Feb. 17-Mar. 18. The season-opening Caravelle Resort Tournament will be Feb. 17-18 with the Chanticleers hosting 2011 Colonial Athletic Association champion James Madison, 2011 NCAA College World Series semifinalist Virginia and ACC foe Boston College. Last season, Coastal opened the 2011 season hosting Boston College and claiming a 9-6 win thanks to a walk-off home run by Hayes Orton before a regular-season Watson Stadium record crowd of 1,373.

Also coming to Conway early in the season is Iowa, North Carolina State, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason, Pittsburgh, St. John’s, Illinois, UNC Wilmington, Ohio State, Toledo, Maris, College of Charleston, Michigan, Connecticut, UAB and Albany.

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