The defending national champion Coastal Carolina University baseball team and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns are the respective East and West preseason favorites in the 2017 Sun Belt Conference baseball preseason coaches’ poll.
Coastal Carolina, ranked as high as ninth nationally in preseason polls, finished the 2016 season 55-18 after defeating Arizona in the College World Series title series in June.
CCU earned 70 points in the East division along with 10 first-place votes. South Alabama was picked to finish second in the East with 56 points and one first-place vote, and Georgia Southern was picked to finish third with 48 points and one first-place vote.
South Alabama was 42-22 last regular season and was the Sun Belt co-champion with UL-Lafayette with a 21-9 league record.
The Ragin’ Cajuns, ranked 13th in the preseason polls, are the defending Sun Belt tournament champions and have made four straight NCAA tournament appearances. They finished 43-21 last season and garnered all 12 first-place votes in the West division.
Beginning this season, the conference will have divisional play in the regular season. The East and West will be comprised of six teams each, and division champions will be determined by winning percentage against all conference teams, regardless of division.
CCU begins its 2017 season on Feb. 17. The Chants are hosting the 18th annual Caravelle Resort’s Baseball at the Beach, which includes Richmond, James Madison, Western Carolina, St. John’s and North Carolina A&T.
CCU will begin the tournament with games against Richmond at 4 p.m. on Feb. 17 and Western Carolina at 2 p.m. on Feb. 18, both at Springs Brooks Stadium on the CCU campus. Pregame ceremonies recognizing the national title will precede both games.
2017 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Coaches’ Preseason Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses)
1. Coastal Carolina (10) - 70 pts
2. South Alabama (1) - 56 pts
3. Georgia Southern (1) - 48 pts
4. Troy - 39 pts
5. Georgia State - 23 pts
6. Appalachian State - 15 pts
1. Louisiana (12) - 72 pts
2. Texas-Arlington - 50 pts
3. Arkansas Little Rock - 45 pts
4. Texas State - 44 pts
5. Arkansas State - 27 pts
6. Louisiana-Monroe - 14 pts