ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The UNC Asheville baseball team is a preseason pick to finish in fifth place in the Big South Conference's South Division. The poll was announced by the league office on Wednesday.
Defending Big South Champion Coastal Carolina was a unanimous selection to win the South Division as it received all 12 first-place votes and 72 points. Gardner-Webb placed second with 48 points, ahead of Charleston Southern who picked up 42 points. In fourth was Winthrop with 36 points and in the No. 5 slot was UNC Asheville with 28 points. Presbyterian College closed out the voting for the South Division with 26 points.
With a record 12 members in 2013, the Big South has added divisional play in baseball for the first time since 1985-87. Liberty is the preseason favorite to win the North Division with Coastal Carolina earning the plaudit for the South Division.
The Flames received seven top votes and 67 points to take the top spot, followed by Campbell who notched one top bid and 55 points. High Point's four No. 1 votes and 53 points rounded out the top three in the North Division. Radford found itself at the No. 4 spot with 39 points, while VMI finished fifth with 22 points. New Big South member Longwood rounded out the list for the North Division with 16 Points.
The Big South baseball season begins on Friday, Feb. 15 with 11 teams in action. The 2013 Big South Baseball Championship is slated for Tuesday, May 21-15 at the Liberty Baseball stadium in Lynchburg, Va.
Asheville is coming off a 25-30 season in 2012. The 25 wins are the most for the Bulldog program since the 2006 Big South-championship season. Tom Smith's club went 12-12 in Big South Conference play and finished in a tie for fourth place in the league standings despite being picked to finish in last place.
"We proved the pollsters wrong last year, and we're looking forward to trying to do it again this year," stated Smith. "I really like the team we have coming back this season and have added some depth that should help us compete better this season.
"We've got a solid nucleus returning," added Smith. "I like the experience we have back and these guys have worked very hard in the off-season and in the fall. We're looking quite forward to the 2013 season beginning."
The Bulldogs return 17 letterwinners from last year's club, including five starters and two of its weekend starters on the mound.
Asheville opens the 2013 season on Feb. 15 when the Bulldogs take on #11 Kentucky in the USC Upstate/Wofford Invitational at USC Upstate.
The Blue & White's home opener at Greenwood Field comes on Feb. 22 when Asheville welcomes Canisius College for a four-game series that weekend.