Mercer baseball picked to finish second in SoCon preseason media poll
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Mercer University baseball team was picked to finish second in the Southern Conference’s Preseason Media Poll, while finishing third in the SoCon Coaches Poll as released by the conference office today.
The Bears placed three individuals on the Preseason All-SoCon team, headlined by senior pitcher Eric Nyquist’s inclusion on the first team. Nyquist was joined on the all-conference list by second team selections Howard Joe and Charlie Madden.
“We are honored to be considered one of the top teams in the SoCon, despite being new to the league,” said head coach Craig Gibson. “It is an exciting opportunity to come into this league with established programs and we look forward to competing for a conference crown this spring.”
Mercer received three first-place votes in the media poll en route to 124 points, trailing defending SoCon champion Western Carolina’s 137 points. Samford, East Tennessee State and UNCG rounded out the top five.
The Bears garnered a trio of first-place votes in the coaches poll as well, tallying 55 points to finish behind Western Carolina (58) and Samford (56). UNCG and ETSU finished fourth and fifth, while Furman, The Citadel, Wofford and VMI closed out the poll.
“I am really happy for our guys that were recognized by the conference this preseason,” added Gibson. “Eric is coming off a great year in the Atlantic Sun and we are going to lean on Howard and Charlie this season for strong production in the middle of our lineup.”
Nyquist emerged as one of the Atlantic Sun’s top pitchers a year ago, taking home first team all-conference honors during his junior campaign. The 6-foot-2 right-hander compiled an 8-1 record with a 3.21 ERA on the mound, while becoming the first Bear since 2005 to post back-to-back shutouts.
Joe will step in as the starting first baseman for the Bears this season, replacing former All-American Nick Backlund after starting 16 games a year ago. The Dunwoody, Ga. native clubbed three home runs and drove in 11 runs in just 59 at-bats last season.
Madden became the Bears’ leader behind the plate during his rookie campaign in Macon, starting 39 games on the season. The sophomore catcher compiled a .269 batting average to go along with three home runs and 22 RBI.
Mercer kicks off its first season in the Southern Conference next Friday, February 13, as it opens up a three-game homestand again Virginia Tech. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. at Claude Smith Field.
Fans can follow Mercer baseball online at MercerBears.com or via Twitter (@MercerBaseball).