Lions Ready to Raise Conference Expectations in 2012

WINTER PARK, Fla. - After posting its second-straight seventh place finish last season, the Saint Leo baseball team was again selected to finish eighth in the 2012 Sunshine State Conference Preseason Poll, is was announced Thursday by SSC Commissioner Jay Jones.

Despite being ousted as the conference's top team in 2011, Tampa has been selected as the preseason favorite to win the 2012 SSC baseball championship.

The Spartans gathered 192 points and 16 first-place votes in a preseason poll conducted among the league's baseball coaches and sports information directors.

Barry, which won the 2011 SSC baseball title, was tabbed No. 2 in the poll, followed closely by Nova Southeastern in third and Florida Southern in fourth. Barry received 158 points, while NSU tallied 146 points and one first-place vote. FSC picked up 139 points and the remaining first-place nod.

Florida Tech was predicted to finish fifth and collected 103 points. Lynn, which received 93 points, took the sixth slot.

In addition to the Lions, Rollins (70) and Eckerd (24) rounded out the poll.

Returning 26 players combined with a solid group of additions including two local freshman and six established transfers, Head Coach Russ McNickle begins his fourth year at the helm looking to make last season's struggles a distant memory.

The Lions come off a season where they finished 19-30 but won five of their final seven games and held a .311 batting average.  This year's focus will sit with the Lions' pitching staff as Saint Leo returns nine arms from last season, including two 13-game starters.

First pitch of the 2012 season is set for Friday, February 3, when Saint Leo faces North Georgia at the Winnersville Kickoff Classic in Valdosta, Ga.  The Lions open up the home slate against Florida Southern on Wednesday, February 8.

Click here for the Sunshine State Conference release.

2012 SUNSHINE STATE CONFERENCE PRESEASON BASEBALL POLL
Rank - Team, Points (1st Place Votes)

1 - Tampa, 192 (16)

2 - Barry, 158

3 - Nova Southeastern, 146 (1)

4 - Florida Southern, 139 (1)

5 - Florida Tech, 103

6 - Lynn, 93

7 - Rollins, 70

8 - Saint Leo, 47

9 - Eckerd, 24