By Daniel Whitehead
BUENA VISTA, Va.—In its first season as a member of the Capital Athletic Conference, the Southern Virginia University baseball team has been picked to finish ninth in the league race based on the CAC preseason coaches' poll.
The Knights are coming off an 18-16 season from the 2013 campaign and opened the 2014 season last weekend at Ferrum, dropping both games of a doubleheader (3-0, 7-1) to the host Panthers. Southern Virginia received 20 points in the poll, just ahead of Marymount (Va.) which is competing in its first year of varsity baseball.
"We have to go in and earn our spot in an extremely talented conference," said Southern Virginia head coach Logan Mann. "You have to go in and earn your stripes and pay your dues. I don't mind where they put us - I feel like we can compete at a higher level than ninth. Nobody really knows what you have until you go out on the field. Our job is to go out and play solid, fundamentally sound baseball and see where we are at season's end.
"We have a goal to finish in the top six, which is lofty, especially for being as young as we are. We have set our sights high and we feel we have the talent to do it; it's just a matter of competing every weekend at a higher level that the CAC will require."
Considered one of the top NCAA Division III baseball conferences in the nation, the CAC features preseason No. 12 Salisbury University and Christopher Newport, who comes in ranked just outside the Top 25 poll. The Seagulls finished last season with a 33-9 record and received a total of 80 points in the CAC coaches' poll, including eight first-place votes. The Captains received 74 points and two first-place votes.
Mary Washington came in third with 64 points and is expected to contend with Salisbury and CNU for the league title. Frostburg State is fourth with 56 points, followed by Wesley (46), York (44), St. Mary's (26) and Penn State Harrisburg (23).
The top six conference finishers will compete in the CAC Tournament at the end of the regular season. St. Mary's (Md.) has traditionally been a playoff team in past CAC seasons, and Penn State Harrisburg advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2013 after winning the North Eastern Athletic Conference.
Southern Virginia is a second-year provisional member of NCAA Division III, so the Knights' games will not count in the CAC standings and they are not eligible for the conference playoffs until 2015. The Knights are eligible for CAC individual awards, such as Player of the Week and All-CAC, during the 2014 season.
To view the 2014 CAC Baseball Preseason Webcast, visit the CAC YouTube page.
To view the full release from the Capital Athletic Conference, visit cacsports.com.
Team (first-place votes) Points
Salisbury (8) 80
Christopher Newport (2) 74
Mary Washington 64
Frostburg State 56
York (Pa.) 44
St. Mary's (Md.) 26
Penn State Harrisburg 23
Southern Virginia 20
Marymount (Va.) 18