MACON, Ga. – The Atlantic Sun Conference Baseball Championship begins Wednesday from Lipscomb University’s Dugan Field with a field of six schools all ranked inside the RPI top 90, according to WarrenNolan.com.
The Atlantic Sun, ranked as the eighth-best conference in country by the same website, joins the ACC, Big 12 and the SEC as the only for conferences in the country that feature all respective tournament participants ranked inside the top 90.
Stetson leads the field of six as the regular-season champion. The Hatters returned to the 40-win mark for the first time since 2007 in impressive fashion. They opened with a three-game sweep against Georgia then won its first nine A-Sun series to lock up the title. They reached national acclaim in mid-March entering national polls at that time. They reached as high as No. 14 during the season and come to Nashville eyeing a record seventh championship victory.
Thanks to a thrilling comeback in the regular-season finale, Jacksonville secured the second seed. The Dolphins closed by winning eight of their final 11 games – a run th-at included an 11-2 victory at No. 4 Florida. Jacksonville owns four Atlantic Sun Championship titles – all in odd years (1999, 2003, 2007 and 2009). This year’s team features Player of the Year candidate Adam Brett Walker. The sophomore ranks among the nation’s 10 best in hits, runs, RBI and total bases.
Kennesaw State makes its A-Sun Championship debut following a 32-23 season. The 32 wins tie for a program-best in the Owls’ six years in the A-Sun. In addition to a successful conference season, the Owls scored home victories against Georgia and Georgia Tech. Sophomore catcher Ronnie Freeman leads the offense. After finishing his freshman season on a 29-game hit streak, he hit in each of the Owls’ first 13 games of 2011 to extend the streak to 42 and establish a Kennesaw State record.
Last year’s champions, Mercer, enter hot, just as was the case last year. This year, the Bears won 12 of their final 15 games to lock up a spot in the field and move into the RPI top 60. Last year, they won 13 of their last 16 then won four straight at the A-Sun Championship to claim their fourth title. They will attempt to become only the third school in the last 13 years to win consecutive A-Sun titles joining UCF (1998-1999) and Stetson (2005-06).
Despite only locking in the fifth seed, ETSU enters boasting the second-highest RPI within the A-Sun. Standing at No. 33 according to WarrenNolan.com, the Bucs bolstered their rating by scoring four top-60 wins in the closing weeks, winning twice at NC State, at Georgia Tech and closing the season with a win at Mercer. Bo Reeder has established himself as one the nation’s top two-way players as he leads the nation in saves with an A-Sun record 18 while hitting .326 with 15 home runs and 60 RBI.
Belmont grabbed the final spot in the field with the most impressive final weekend. The Bruins became the first A-Sun team to claim a series against Stetson. By winning the final two games of the series, the Bruins moved inside the RPI top 90. They own a 7-6 record against the RPI top 50 joining Stetson as only two A-Sun schools with winning records against top-50 schools. Matt Hamann established himself as one of the league’s aces finishing the regular-season with an 8-1 record and a 2.28 ERA.
Play begins on Wednesday with the top-seeded Hatters facing the sixth-seeded Bruins at Noon ET. No. 2 Jacksonville takes on No. 5 ETSU in a match-up of two RPI top-50 schools at 4 p.m. In the nightcap Kennesaw State tangles with the defending champs Mercer at 8 p.m. All contests for the A-Sun Championship will air free of charge on ASun.TV.
Release provided by the Atlantic Sun Conference