WINTER PARK, Fla.—The Barry Buccaneers were picked tied with Lynn for third in the 2014 Sunshine State Conference pre-season baseball poll of league coaches.
Coming off their sixth NCAA Division II National Championship in 2013, the Tampa Spartans were chosen to win a third-straight Sunshine State Conference Championship in 2014.
The Spartans tallied 64 points and received eight of nine first-place votes. Florida Tech was selected second with 46 points. Barry and Lynn both received 42 points for third, while the Fighting Knights earned the remaining first-place vote.
Nova Southeastern was tabbed fifth with 41 points. Florida Southern took the sixth slot with 34 points, and Saint Leo earned 31 points for seventh.
Rollins (16 points) and Eckerd (8 points) rounded out the preseason poll.
The Buccaneers (31-19, 14-10 SSC T-3rd) return a bevy of decorated players in 2014, including consensus All-America second baseman Adrian English. English was a constant force in the Buccaneers’ lineup all season and helped guide Barry to a 31-19 overall mark. The Miami native began the season with a 15-game hitting streak and hit safely in 44 of the Bucs’ 50 games. English also amassed 26 multi-hit games and 16 multi-RBI games this spring, finishing with a .392 average, 80 hits, 51 RBI and his 20 doubles were good for 14th in the nation.
Sophomore right-hander Billy Atkins was a first-team All-Conference pick as well. He went 5-5 with a 3.45 ERA and led the team with 75.1 innings and 52 strikeouts. Senior righty Calvin Rayburn posted a sparkling 9-2 record to earn second-team All-SSC and second-team All-Region honors from Daktronics. He also picked up the South region Gold Glove for pitchers from the ABCA and Rawlings. Senior Tyler Kellman, who split time between first and third, earned second-team All-SSC and first-team All-Region from Daktronics as a utility player. Hitting in the cleanup spot, he chalked up a .351 average with three homers and 44 RBI. Leadoff hitter Sheehan Planas-Arteaga, a junior right fielder, also earned second-team all-conference honors and added second-team All-Region honors from the ABCA. He hit .367, but drew 43 walks for a .477 on-base percentage. He scored a team-best 59 runs and drove in 36, while stealing 10 bases.
Last season, Tampa won its 15th SSC title—second most behind Florida Southern’s 17—with a 19-5 mark in league play. It was the Spartans sixth conference title in the eight years.
Tampa returns four All-SSC players, including first-team selections Michael Danner (OF), Connor Obrochta (OF), and Jacob Tillotson (SS). Utility player Tyler Ding was named second-team second basemen. All four players enter their senior season in 2014.
Ding led the Spartans with a .378 batting average. He drove in 37 runs and scored 30. Danner led the team with 73 hits and 53 RBIs, while also recording a .344 batting average and 51 runs scored. Obrochta led the Spartans with 63 runs scored.
Tillotson was second on the team with a .360 batting average. The senior was named to the NCAA Division II All-Tournament Team along with fellow returning senior Zach Gawrych. Gawrych was a perfect 21-for-21 in stolen bases on the season.
Florida Tech finished tied for third in the league last season with a 14-10 SSC mark and a 32-19 overall record.
The Panthers will be led by the 2013 SSC Freshman of the Year and All-SSC First Team catcher Austin Allen. Allen ranked eighth in the league with a .356 batting average and ninth with a .523 slugging percentage. He hit 13 doubles and threw out 10 base runners.
Junior pitcher Scotty Ward also returns for Florida Tech after being named All-SSC Second Team a season ago. Ward recorded a 6-3 record in 13 starts with a 3.91 ERA. He struck out 45 batters and walked just 12 in 78.1 innings of work.
Baseball season begins on Saturday, Feb. 1.
2014 Sunshine State Conference Preseason Baseball Poll
Rank – Team, Points (1st-place votes)
1 – Tampa, 64 (8)
2 – Florida Tech, 46
T3 – Barry, 42
T3 – Lynn, 42 (1)
5 – Nova Southeastern, 41
6 – Florida Southern, 34
7 – Saint Leo, 31
8 – Rollins, 16
9 – Eckerd, 8