‘Cocks No. 3, Tigers No. 16, CCU left out of baseball poll

Despite winning back-to-back national championships, the South Carolina Gamecocks are ranked No. 3 in the 2012 Baseball America Preseason Rankings, which were released Tuesday.

Instate rival Clemson was ranked No. 16 and fellow Palmetto State powers Coastal Carolina, The College of Charleston and The Citadel failed to crack the Top 25.

The Gamecocks, who open the 2012 season on Friday, Feb. 17 hosting a three-game series with VMI at Carolina Stadium, is the back-to-back defending national champion in NCAA Division I Baseball after winning the 2010 and 2011 College World Series. But SEC foe Florida took the top spot, just ahead of No. 2 Stanford.

The Southeastern Conference, which produced three of the final four teams standing in Omaha last year and has won the last three national titles, looks strong again heading into 2012. The SEC accounts for three of the top four teams and six of the top 11 in the 2012 preseason rankings. The SEC leads all conferences with seven teams in the Top 25.

South Carolina returns several letterwinners from last year’s national championship squad including 2011 All-Americans Matt Price (RHP), Michael Roth (LHP) and Christian Walker (1B). Roth, a consensus All-American and CollegeBaseballInsider.com’s National Player of the Year in 2011, went 14-3 last year while posting a 1.06 ERA in 145.0 innings of work.

Price was also a consensus All-American in 2011 and a finalist for the 2011 NCBWA Stopper of the Year award. He earned first-team All-SEC honors and was on the College World Series All-Tournament Team. One of the nation’s top closers in 2011, Price went 7-3 with a 1.83 ERA along with 20 saves in 59.0 innings pitched.

A first-team All-SEC selection, opponents hit just .213 against him as he compiled 75 strikeouts. Price is looking to begin the 2012 season in the weekend rotation. Walker earned third-team All-America honors last year from Baseball America. He was the team’s leading hitter in the 2011 season with a .358 average (97-for-271) along with 21 doubles, a triple, 10 homers and 62 RBI. A second-team All-SEC selection, Walker would go on to earn College World Series All-Tournament Team honors after playing the entire CWS Championship Series with a broken hamate bone in his left wrist.

Other returning starters with experience include senior outfielders Adam Matthews (.264-2-14) and Jake Williams (.268-2-38) along with junior outfielder Evan Marzilli (.291-3-31). Back in the mix on the mound are junior right-hander Colby Holmes (7-3, 3.69 ERA) and sophomore right-hander Forrest Koumas (6-1, 2.96 ERA).

South Carolina also ranked No. 2 in the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Top 40 that was released in December, with Florida also taking the top spot. Clemson was 25th, Charleston was 32nd and Coastal was 41 in that poll.

Baseball America Preseason Top 25

Rk.    Team        `11Rec.    `11 Rk
1.     Florida     53-19     2
2.     Stanford     35-22     13
3.     South Carolina     55-14     1
4.     Arkansas     40-22     24
5.     Arizona     39-21     NR
6.     Rice         42-21     15
7.     Texas A&M     47-22     7
8.     LSU         36-20     NR
9.     North Carolina     51-16     5
10.     Vanderbilt     54-12     4
11.     Georgia     33-22     NR
12.     Georgia Tech     42-21     20
13.     Texas         49-19     6
14.     UCLA         35-24     22
15.     TCU         43-19     19
16.     Clemson     43-20     21
17.     Arizona State     43-18     9
18.     Miami         38-23     17
19.     Oklahoma     41-19     NR
20.     Florida State     46-19     8
21.     UCF         39-23     NR
22.     Mississippi     30-25     NR
23.     Oregon State     41-19     10
24.     Louisville     32-29     NR
25.     Cal St. Fullerton 41-17 14

 

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