Dec. 20, 2010
By Andrew Kitick
Columbia, S.C. - The South Carolina baseball team has been ranked No. 14 in the 2011 Collegiate Baseball Preseason Top 40 released on Monday morning. The defending national champions begin the season on Feb. 18, with a three-game series vs. Santa Clara.
Carolina is one of six SEC teams to be ranked by Collegiate Baseball. Florida is No. 2 with Vanderbilt at No. 5, LSU at No. 15, Auburn at No. 25 and Arkansas at No. 32.
The Gamecocks return six position starters from last year's team as well as several pitchers. Among the returning players are Preseason All-Americans, junior outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and sophomore right-hander Matt Price. Bradley was the 2010 College World Series Most Outstanding Player and the Gamecocks' leading hitter this past season with a .368 batting average (89-for-242) with 13 HR and 60 RBI. He also had a .473 on-base percentage and a .587 slugging percentage for the season. Price went 5-1 out of the bullpen last year with a 2.26 ERA as well as 10 saves. He struck out 83 batters in 55.2 innings, finishing with an average of 13.41 strikeouts per nine innings, a school record at Carolina.
A pair of sophomore standouts are back as well with Christian Walker returning to first base along with outfielder Evan Marzilli. Both players earned All-CWS and SEC All-Freshman team honors after a strong postseason with Walker also being named a Freshman All-America in 2010. Walker finished with a .327 average including nine HR and 51 RBI. Marzilli ended the year with a .385 average. Senior second baseman Scott Wingo and third baseman Adrian Morales are back in the infield with Adam Matthews returning to the outfield for his junior season also. Morales earned NCAA Regional MVP honors last year with his three home runs in the Columbia Regional. Wingo was an All-SEC Defensive team selection. Matthews hit .307 with seven HR and 31 RBI.
Along with Price, the Gamecocks return a bevy of pitchers that includes junior left-hander Michael Roth. The Gamecock southpaw went 2-1 with a 1.34 ERA in 37 appearances last year. A reliever for almost the entire season, his most notable performances came in Omaha when he defeated Clemson 5-1 in his first start of the year and followed that up with a quality start in the 2-1 victory over UCLA that clinched the national title. Left-handers Tyler Webb, Nolan Belcher, Steven Neff and Adam Westmoreland are also back, as is a strong group of right-handers that includes Ethan Carter, Colby Holmes, Jose Mata and John Taylor.
Carolina owns more overall wins than any SEC team in the last 11 years and more conference wins than any SEC team in the last 11 years with a 200-129 conference record. South Carolina is the only SEC school to record 40 or more wins each season from 2000-present and the only SEC school to reach the NCAA Regional every season in the last 11 years. The Gamecocks also have the most NCAA Super Regional appearances of the 12 SEC schools in the last 11 years.
Head coach Ray Tanner is the second winningest coach in Southeastern Conference history with a .692 winning percentage in 14 seasons at the helm of the Garnet & Black.
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