Baseball Picked Second, Four Named Preseason All-SoCon
SPARTANBURG, S.C. Led by three First Team Preseason All-Southern Conference selections, Georgia Southern was picked to finish second according to the league head coaches. The SoCon office announced the preseason picks on Thursday (Feb. 12).
Senior catcher Griffin Benedict (Dunwoody/St. Pius), junior third baseman A.J. Wirnsberger (Tuscaloosa, AL/Paul W. Bryant) and senior outfielder Ty Wright (Montrose/ABAC) all earned First Team honors, as selected by the head coaches. The trio each earned Third Team Preseason All-America honors heading into the 2009 campaign. Senior outfielder Phillip Porter (Marietta/Sprayberry) was a preseason Second Team pick.
Georgia Southern received three first-place votes for a total of 89 points. Coming off a 33-25 season (16-11 SoCon and fourth place finish), the Eagles return six starters off last year’s team. Defending champion Elon received the other eight first-place votes for a total of 98 points.
The College of Charleston (79), The Citadel (62) and Appalachian State (57) rounded out the top five. Western Carolina (52) just edged UNC Greensboro (51), and they were followed by Furman (46), league newcomer Samford (40), Wofford (19) and Davidson (12).
Benedict earned Second Team All-SoCon honors last year and is regarded as one of the best all-around catchers in the country. The senior was also one of 19 in Georgia Southern history to record 60 runs scored/60 RBI in a season (60/65) and ranked 61st nationally in RBI per game (1.14). He batted .355 with 17 doubles, 12 home runs and walked more times (27) than he struck out (20) in 217 at-bats, all while posting a .978 fielding percentage.
He led the Eagles and finished fifth in the SoCon picking off six runners. In fact, Benedict had more pickoffs by himself than three SoCon teams had total. Benedict accounted for two of the Eagles’ NCAA record 14 home runs hit during game two of the Columbia series last year, a 26-8 victory.
Wright is coming off an All-America season in 2008, his first with the Eagles. The senior outfielder, also named to the Wallace Watch’ for the Brooks Wallace Award as National Player of the Year, earned Second Team All-America honors by the American Baseball Coaches Association last season. He also was selected First Team All-Atlantic Region and First Team All-Southern Conference.
Wright was featured in Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd’ after hitting for the cycle in four consecutive innings (the first four innings of game three) at Wofford. Overall he tallied 63 runs scored (19th nationally), 52 RBI batting mainly as leadoff hitter, and led the team with 22 doubles (16th). He recorded 17 home runs (22nd in HR per game), including a program record six that led off a game. Wright posted a .781 slugging percentage (8th) and .494 on-base percentage (46th).
He tallied 32 walks to 25 strikeouts in 196 at-bats and just missed the .400 club, finishing the year batting at a .398 clip (48th nationally). He hit one of the NCAA record 14 home runs against Columbia (March 15). Wright was named SoCon Player of the Month’ in April (.410 batting average, 34-for-83), and earned NCBWA National Player of the Week’ and SoCon Player of the Week’ honors for the week of April 29.
Wirnsberger was a Second Team All-SoCon pick last year. He currently holds the SoCon season record hitting three grand slams last season, and now is tied for second all-time in that category. He also became one of 19 Eagles all-time to record 60 runs scored (63) and 60 RBI (74).
Wirnsberger ranked 90th last year in runs scored, 13th in home runs (21), 22nd in RBI per game and 71st in slugging percentage (.668). He helped set the NCAA single-game home run record hitting one of the 14 versus Columbia. Wirnsberger started in all 58 games last year, and finished in a tie for 10th among the GS season home run leaders.
Porter turned in a career year in 2008, putting up offensive numbers that surpassed his two-year totals in: hits, runs scored, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, sacrifice hits and stolen bases. He finished third on the team batting .365 and 19 stolen bases. One of his home runs last year came during the NCAA record 14 hit during game two of the Columbia series. In his first start of the year he went a career-high 5-for-6 with three RBI, including a walk-off single in the ninth to win the game. Porter scored 59 runs and drove in 45, hit 13 doubles and seven home runs while stealing 19-of-24 bases.
According to the SoCon Sports Media Association the Eagles got one first-place vote and finished third in the balloting (158 points), just behind Elon (194) and Charleston (176).
The Eagles open play on Friday, February 20, at J.I. Clements Stadium, playing host to Presbyterian. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
2009 SoCon Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll
Place School (First) Points
1. Elon (8) 98
2. Georgia Southern (3) 89
3. College of Charleston 79
4. The Citadel 62
5. Appalachian State 57
6. Western Carolina 52
7. UNC Greensboro 51
8. Furman 46
9. Samford 40
10. Wofford 19
11. Davidson 12
2009 SoCon Baseball Preseason Media Poll
Place School (First) Points
1. Elon (15) 194
2. College of Charleston (2) 176
3. Georgia Southern (1) 158
4. The Citadel 125
5. Appalachian State 110
6. Western Carolina 101
7. UNC Greensboro 91
8. Furman 89
9. Samford 83
10. Wofford 41
11. Davidson 20
P Jesse Simpson, College of Charleston
P Chris Masters, Western Carolina
RP Thomas Girdwood, Elon
C Griffin Benedict, Georgia Southern
1B David Towarnicky, Appalachian State
2B Brandon Sizemore, College of Charleston
SS Michael Gilmartin, Wofford
3B A.J. Wirnsberger, Georgia Southern
OF Cory Harrilchak, Elon
OF Sonny Meade, The Citadel
OF Ty Wright, Georgia Southern
DH Reese Wade, Furman
P Matt Andress, Appalachian State
P Wes Wrenn, The Citadel
P Cory Harrilchak, Elon
RP Nick Karow, Furman
C Dallas Tarleton, Elon
1B Chris McGuiness, The Citadel
2B Nick Liles, Western Carolina
SS Brent Greer, Western Carolina
3B Bennett Davis, Elon
OF Corey Overholtzer, UNC Greensboro
OF Jake Williams, Wofford
OF Phillip Porter, Georgia Southern
DH Greg Blake, College of Charleston
- Category: Baseball
- Published on Friday, 13 February 2009 00:12