BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Southwestern Athletic Conference announced its 2014 baseball predicted order of finish and preseason honors with Alabama State (Eastern) and Southern (Western) selected to capture its respective division.
Jackson State’s Charles Tillery was voted Preseason Player of the Year along with Alabama State’s T.J. Renda (Preseason Pitcher of the Year) and Emmanuel Marrero (Defensive Preseason Player of the Year) closing out the preseason accolades.
The first and second preseason all-conference squads were voted by the league’s 10 head coaches and sports information directors. Head coaches and sports information directors were not allowed to vote for players from their respective teams.
For the Eastern Division, Alabama State led the group with 80 points including eight first-place votes. Jackson State followed with 78 points and 10 first-place votes with Alcorn State standing third with 58 points. Mississippi Valley State received 39 points and two first-place votes and Alabama A&M rounded out the prediction with 35 points.
Defending Western Division regular season champions Southern was predicted to repeat with 74 points including seven first-place votes. Prairie View A&M was tagged second with 72 points and eight first-place votes. Arkansas-Pine Bluff garnered 57 points for third along with five votes for first. Texas Southern (55) and Grambling State (32) closed out the division’s preseason prediction.
Reigning SWAC Baseball Tournament and Eastern Division champions, JSU, posted a league-high seven players earning preseason honors with three selected to the first team. ASU was second with six selections, followed by PVAMU (3), UAPB (2), SU (2) and GSU (2). TSU and AAMU each had one player selected. Eight of the 10 SWAC schools were represented with at least one preseason selection.
Tillery (OF, 6-0, 195, Sr., Starkville, Miss.) helped lead JSU to the 2013 SWAC title and the automatic bid in the NCAA Baseball Tournament Regional last year. He closed out his first season in the league with a .352 batting average which ranked second in the conference. He also led the league in on-base-percentage (.475). Along with his batting average, Tillery led JSU in runs scored (52), hits (68), walks (33), runs scored (50), and stolen bases (26). He was named SWAC Newcomer of the Year and voted to the conference second team in the postseason. He was also tagged with ABCA Regional honors.
Renda (6-0, 200, Jr., Orlando, Fla.) earned ABCA First Team honors after receiving SWAC Pitcher of the Year and league first team accolades. He recorded a 9-1 record with a 2.19 ERA. He was a two-time SWAC Player of the Week and a Collegebaseballinsider.com Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week. Last year’s weekly awards followed Renda’s season-opening no-hitter against Chicago State when he recorded a career-high 15 strikeouts. Renda led the SWAC in strikeouts, wins and ERA.
Marrero (INF, 6-0, Jr., Caugas, Puerto Rico) finished last season with a .953 fielding percentage to complement 63 putouts. He led ASU with 118 assists and was second on the team in fielding double plays with 14.
The 2014 season opens for all 10 league teams on Friday, Feb. 14. This season’s SWAC Baseball Championship will take place at LaGrave Field in Fort Worth, Texas, from May 14-18 and will include the top four teams from each division.