Although UT Tyler has a new coach and several new faces, the Patriots are in a familiar spot â€” favorites to win the American Southwest Conference East Division baseball race.
â€śIt is an honor to be picked first in this preseason poll,â€ť new coach Chris Bertrand said of the poll released by the ASC office. â€śIt goes along with our goals and our focus this preseason, as well as our goals for our program for years to come.â€ť
Bertrand comes to Tyler from LSU-Shreveport where he served as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator.
While the Patriots are the pick in the East, Concordia-Texas is favored in the West.
The poll was a vote of each divisionâ€™s head coaches, sports information directors and media members. A total of 28 players â€” 14 from the West Division and 14 from the East Division â€” were named to the players-to-watch lists by nominations from head coaches.
The Patriots, who have won or shared six ASC East division championships in a row, were 33-12 and 14-4 in ASC play last season. They totaled 134 points and 11 of the possible 21 first-place votes.
Jack Barkley and senior T.J. Martin were named to the â€ś14 Players to Watch in the East Divisionâ€ť preseason poll.
Barkley, a junior from Athens, was a workhorse last season, going 10-1 with a 3.42 ERA in 76.1 innings pitched and 28 strikeouts.
Martin, a defensive standout at third base, finished the season hitting .369 with eight doubles, one homerun, 36 RBIs and several outstanding plays on defense, which led to him being named a Rawlings Gold Glove winner.
UT Dallas (28-15, 14-4 ASC) was the pick for second place with nine first-place votes and just three fewer points than UT Tyler. Head coach Shane Shewmakeâ€™s Comets, who tied for the East crown last season, led the division with a 3.21 team ERA.
Mississippi College (21-24, 9-9 ASC) picked up the final first-place vote and totaled 106 points to claim the third-place position. Louisiana College (15-24, 7-11 ASC) was the fourth-place selection. LeTourneau totaled 55 points to be the fifth-place selection in the East, followed by East Texas Baptist (53) and Ozarks (38).
Concordia-Texas, which went 37-11 overall (17-4 ASC) last year en route to its second straight conference title, totaled 139 points and collected 17 of the 21 possible first-place votes in the West.
Head coach Tommy Boggsâ€™ Tornados boasted a 2.71 team ERA in 2012 with a league-leading 360 strikeouts. CTX also won a conference title in 2002.
Three-time ASC champion Texas Lutheran wrapped up the second-place position with 118 points and two first-place votes. Head coach Greg Burnettâ€™s Bulldogs (27-14, 16-5 ASC) led the West in pitching (2.68 ERA) last year. Hardin-Simmons (20-20, 12-9 ASC) landed the final two first-place votes and was predicted for a third-place finish, just two behind TLU. Mary Hardin-Baylor (21-17, 11-10 ASC) came in the fourth spot with 77 points.
Howard Payne was predicted to finish fifth in the West with 60 points, followed by Sul Ross State (50) and Schreiner (38).
UT Tyler will begin its season Friday, Feb. 8, against Rogers State at the Dallas Christian Tournament in Dallas.
The Patriotsâ€™ home opener is Feb. 15 against Hardin-Simmons.