High Point Tabbed Third in Big South Baseball Preseason Poll

Posted by Press Release on January 25, 2018 at 3:18 pm under College | Comments are off for this article

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University baseball team was picked to finish third in the Big South preseason poll of the league’s coaches, it was announced on Thursday.

“The Big South is very deep this year with quality teams top to bottom, so competing on conference weekends is going to be a battle,” head coach Craig Cozart said. “We are very confident that the talent and mentality of this year’s club is going to allow us to challenge for the title.”

The Panthers return 21 letterwinners from a year ago, including two starting pitchers and seven members of last year’s regular starting lineup. HPU’s seven returning position player starters are tied for the most in the Big South while the 13 returning pitchers are the third-most in the conference. Among those returning are senior infielder Blake Schunk and sophomore pitcher Drew Daczkowski, who earned second-team All-Conference honors in 2017.

High Point brings back its entire starting infield from last year in senior Jordan Sergent (1B), senior Hunter Lee (2B), junior Conner Dunbar (SS), and Schunk (3B). Senior JJ Woodard is slated to receive a majority of the playing time behind the plate. In the outfield, seniors Austen Zente and Carson Jackson return in center field and right field, respectively, with an open competition for the starting job in left field.

On the mound, Daczkowski and junior Andrew Gottfried aim to anchor the weekend rotation after both posted winning seasons in 2017. In the bullpen, senior Rion Murrah and junior Matt Hodges provide a right/left combo to hold down the end of games.

The Purple & White will welcome in 12 newcomers in 2018, headlined by 10 freshman. Nine of the 12 newcomers will compete for time on the mound in a crowded HPU relief corps.

High Point finished last year with a 30-23 record, marking the first time in the Div. I era (since 1999) that High Point won at least 30 games in consecutive seasons. Cozart, entering his 10th season, has authored four 30-plus win campaigns and has seen his teams compile at least 29 wins in each of the last five years while holding a winning percentage of .500 or greater each season.

“Opening Day is just three weeks away and we are extremely excited about getting practice started,” Cozart said. “Our guys have been working very hard and there is a lot of anticipation for a great season. We are looking forward to great support from our students, fans and family as we represent HPU on the field this spring.”

Big South Preseason Poll Breakdown
Defending regular season champion Winthrop (95 points) was selected as the preseason favorite, garnering six of the 10 first place votes. Liberty (81) received a pair of first place votes to come in second in the poll, while High Point (77) and Radford (76), the reigning tournament champion, each claimed one first place vote.

The coaches tabbed Campbell (55) fifth, followed by Presbyterian (47), Gardner-Webb (36), Charleston Southern (35), UNC Asheville (26), and Longwood (22). The Panthers will host the preseason No. 1, 2, 4, and 6 teams during its home conference schedule while traveling to the preseason No. 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10 teams. This season, HPU will play every team in the conference for the first time since 2011.


RANK   TEAM             POINTS (1st)
1.     Winthrop             95 (6)
2.     Liberty              81 (2)
3.     High Point           77 (1)
4.     Radford              76 (1)
5.     Campbell             55
6.     Presbyterian         47
7.     Gardner-Webb         36
8.     Charleston Southern  35
9.     UNC Asheville        26
10     Longwood             22

DJ Artis, OF, Jr., Liberty

Nate Pawelczyk, P, Jr. Winthrop

High Point opens its season on Friday, Feb. 16 with the opener of a three-game series against James Madison. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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