Full Preseason All-Conference Team and Polls
LakePoint, Ga. - Lipscomb cleaned house this preseason with starting righty Brady Puckett nabbing the ASUN Preseason Pitcher of the Year Award, while fellow junior Bisons outfielder Michael Gigliotti claimed both Preseason Player and Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
The Bisons had three players make the Preseason All-Conference team, as junior second baseman Lee Solomon joined Puckett and Gigliotti in recognition. All three teammates earned All-Conference honors in 2016, while an additional five Bisons were assigned to the ASUN All-Freshmen Squad. With so many rising all-stars, Lipscomb was voted first overall in this year's Preseason Coaches Poll, garnering six of eight first-place votes.
Juniors Chris Thibideau and Alex Merritt were awarded preseason honors this year for North Florida. Thibideau slugged a team-leading .561, while Merritt mashed seven home runs in 2016. The Ospreys come into the season with a second-place ranking overall, looking to build off a 39-19 record.
Just behind UNF and receiving a single first-place vote is Kennesaw State. After winning its first regular season ASUN title in program history, KSU is looking to become the first side to repeat since FGCU in 2009, toting three Preseason All-Conference selections on its roster.
FGCU and Jacksonville tied for fourth in the early season rankings, with both teams landing players on the All-Conference squad. JU was the only unit to place multiple pitchers on this year's lineup, in rightys Mike Cassala and Michael Baumann while the Eagles' Nick Rivera makes his third appearance of his career.
Stetson, USC Upstate and NJIT fill out the six through eight spots of the poll respectively, with the Hatters' Austin Hale getting a nod at the catcher's spot on the preseason team.
Time is short concerning the start of the ASUN Baseball season, with opening day just over three weeks away. Fans can read more about this year's Preseason All-Conference Team and what they bring into 2017 below.
ASUN Baseball Preseason All-Conference Team (* - Denotes unanimous selection)
- Brady Puckett, Lipscomb, Starting Pitcher*: Puckett was named 2017's ASUN Baseball Preseason Pitcher of the Year, with a unanimous selection to the All-Conference team after leading the ASUN in wins (9) and strikeouts (101) in 2016. The Lipscomb righty earned Pitcher of the Year honors last season and was recently named to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Preseason All-America list. Puckett is the ace of a Lipscomb squad ranked first in the ASUN Preseason Coaches Poll and finished with 12 wins in conference play last season.
- Michael Baumann, Jacksonville, Starting Pitcher: As the 2015 ASUN Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, Baumann has been elected to the Preseason All-Conference squad for the second time in his career. The junior made 14 starts for the Dolphins in 2016 allowing two runs or less in six of those appearances.
- Gabe Friese, Kennesaw State, Starting Pitcher: Friese led Kennesaw State to its first ASUN Regular Season title in program history last season. The righthander earned Second Team ASUN All-Conference honors after leading the Owls with six wins, and allowing just one home run over 72.1 innings of work.
- Mike Cassala, Jacksonville, Relief Pitcher: Cassala enters the 2017 season as the ASUN's top returning save-leader, after tying Stetson's Walker Sheller at 12 last season. The Jacksonville righty made 21 appearances out of the bullpen in 2016, striking out 14 batters on the year and recording a 1.93 ERA against conference opponents.
- Austin Hale, Stetson, Catcher: Hale led the ASUN in runners caught stealing last year at 23, on the way to throwing out .343 of potential base stealers. The rising junior hit .266 on the year and is the only returning Hatter to appear in all 60 of Stetson's games last year. Hale had 12 extra-base hits in 2016 while driving in 25 runs.
- Austin Upshaw, Kennesaw State, First Baseman*: Upshaw is one of just three sophomores to make this year's ASUN Preseason All-Conference list after a unanimous selection. The Kennesaw State first baseman was an electee of the 2016 Second Team All-Conference squad and led the Owls with seven home runs last year. As a freshman, Upshaw posted 24 mult-hit games while averaging a clip of .395 in conference play.
- Lee Solomon, Lipscomb, Second Baseman: A 2016 Second Team All-Conference selection, Solomon had a habit of keeping pitchers uncomfortable last season. As a sophomore, the Columbus, Ohio native led the ASUN with 25 stolen bases while getting on base at a conference-high .471. After batting .370 and drawing 36 walks last season, Solomon leads in both categories among returning ASUN players.
- Alex Merritt, North Florida, Third Baseman: Merritt gets onto the ASUN Baseball Preseason All-Conference Team for the first time in his career, after making the All-Freshman team in 2014. The third baseman started 57 games at the hot corner last season, hitting .316 on the year with 48 RBIs.
- Dakota Julylia, Jacksonville, Shortstop: Julylia was elected to the 2016 ASUN All-Freshman team as a second baseman last year, and earns his first appearance on the Preseason All-Conference Team as a shortstop. The righthanded infielder led Jacksonville with 56 assists in conference play while recording just two errors against ASUN opponents.
- Michael Gigliotti, Lipscomb, Outfielder: In his sophomore season at Lipscomb, Gigliotti was named to both the 2016 ASUN All-Conference Team and Preseason All-Conference team. The outfielder from Ft. Lauderdale earned Perfect Game/Rawlings Preseason College All-American honors earlier this year and is coming off a 2016 season that saw him get on base at a .407 average and rake a conference-leading five triples.
- Chris Thibideau, North Florida, Outfielder*: Thibideau is one of just three players to earn a unanimous selection to this season's ASUN Preseason All-Conference Team, after earning First Team honors in 2016. The rising senior made homeplate look like a launchpad last year, recording a team-best 23 extra-base hits and slugging .705 against ASUN pitchers. As a junior Thibideau excelled on the basepaths as well, snagging 12 bags on 13 attempts.
- Corey Greeson, Kennesaw State, Outfielder: The junior Owl slashed an unseemly .356/.417/.521 in 2016, to earn a spot on the ASUN All-Conference Second Team. Greeson had nine extra-base hits and improved to .388/.458/.529 when facing conference foes. The Calhoun, Ga. native scored 35 runs on the year, trailing only fellow Preseason All-Conference temmate Austin Upshaw for the KSU lead.
- Nick Rivera, FGCU, Designated Hitter: Rivera has become a mainstay on the ASUN Preseason All-Conference Team, making the list for the third time in his career this season. The first baseman/designated hitter missed time last season due to a wrist injury, but still managed to drive in eight runs and two homers in just 58 at bats. Rivera posted a .347/.458/.608 as a junior in 2015, while his 70 RBIs led the conference.
|2017 ASUN Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll|
|Pl.||Team||1st Place Votes||Points||2016 Record|
|2.||North Florida||1||52||39-19 (15-6)
|3.||Kennesaw State||1||51||29-27 (17-4)
|7.||USC Upstate||16||22-30 (5-15)|
For the sixth-consecutive year, the ASUN took to social media to poll the fans for the conference preseason superlative awards. Over 2,876 votes were cast for student-athletes across the league. USC Upstate's Charlie Carpenter was named the Fan-Voted Preseason Player of the Year with 219 votes, while Stetson's Austin Hale got the nod for Fan-Voted Defensive Player of the Year with 334. Brady Puckett of Lipscomb earned Fan-Voted Pitcher of the Year honors after garnering 335 votes.