PORTSMOUTH – Baseball was picked to finish seventh in the Mid-South Conference Coaches' Preseason Poll. That projected spot is a one place improvement over where the Bears finished a season ago. The Bears received 31 voting points in the poll. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.
Cumberland University received eight of the 10 first-place votes and was selected to repeat as regular season champs. Lindsey Wilson, the MSC Tournament Champions last season, received one first-place vote and were selected third. Georgetown was picked to finish third in the conference while Campbellsville received the final first-place vote and finished fourth in the preseason voting.
St. Catharine and the University of the Cumberlands were picked fifth and sixth. After Shawnee State, Rio Grande, Bluefield and Pikeville filled the final three slots in the coaches' rankings.
Highlighting the offensive returners for the Bears is a trio of hitters that batted over .300 last season. Dustin Bickmeyer and Ryan Queener each batted .324 last season. Each drove in nine runs as they worked their way into the starting lineup on a regular basis in the second half of the regular season. Todd Queener also started 56 of the team's 57 games last season. He batted .309 while scoring 48 runs and driving in 26 more from the leadoff spot. He also swiped 15 bases and finished with eight doubles and five triples.
On the mound, the Bears return two of their three weekend starters from last season in Cody Strayer and Zak Esposito. Strayer led the team in innings pitched (85.0) and strikeouts (38) last season in his rookie campaign with the Bears. He posted a 3.71 ERA and won three games. Esposito pitched 67.1 innings last season. He also won three games last season to go along with 36 strikeouts. Both Strayer and Esposito pitched three complete games last season.
The 2014 will be the seventh season under head coach Ted Tom. In his first six seasons at the helm, Tom has a career coaching record of 170-167. With 26 more wins, he will become Shawnee State's all-time winningest coach, passing Pat Rigsby (1996-2002) who won 195 games as head coach of the Bears.
The Bears went 29-28 (9-15 MSC) under Tom in 2013. It was his fourth consecutive winning season. Despite the winning record, Tom's squad will look to get back to its championship form of the previous years in which they played for the conference championship for three straight seasons from 2010-12. This included winning the 2011 Mid-South Conference Tournament in the team's first year in the conference.