SAINT LEO, Fla. – After finishing 2010 in a tie for seventh place, the Saint Leo baseball team was presented with their first challenge of its new season when they were selected to finish eighth in the 2011 Sunshine State Conference Preseason Poll, is was announced Thursday by SSC Commissioner Jay Jones.

Defending SSC Champions, Tampa, with 15 first-place votes and 190 points, was selected as the favorite to hoist the regular season trophy as season’s end.

Florida Southern collected 163 points and claimed the other three first-place nods to place second in the poll, which was conducted among conference baseball coaches and sports information directors.

Florida Tech took the third slot in the rankings with 146 points. Nova Southeastern was fourth with 112 points. Rollins received 103 points to hold down fifth place in the poll.

Gathering 97 points, Barry was ranked sixth. Lynn's 80 points ranked seventh, while the Lions and Eckerd (27) rounded out the poll.

The most cohesive team in Coach Russ McNickle’s three seasons at Saint Leo, this year’s edition of the Lions will look to erase memories of a 20-34 season last year where the Green and Gold managed a 6-18 record within the SSC.

Returning 21 players, and along with a solid recruiting class, McNickle looks to make the struggles of 2010 a distant memory.

Setting a program record for fielding percentage in 2010, the Lions come off a season where they held a .315 batting average.  Refocusing the pitching as well, Saint Leo returns nine arms from last season’s squad with a mindset of determination from the mound. 

First pitch of the 2011 season is set for Friday, February 4, when Saint Leo hosts Valdosta State University on Opening Day at Thomas B. Southard Stadium.

Click here for the Sunshine State Conference release.

2011 SUNSHINE STATE CONFERENCE PRESEASON BASEBALL POLL
Rank - School, Points (1st Place Points)
1 - Tampa, 190 (15)
2 - Florida Southern, 163
3 - Florida Tech, 146
4 - Nova Southeastern, 112
5 - Rollins, 103
6 - Barry, 97
7 - Lynn, 80
8 - Saint Leo, 54
9 - Eckerd, 27