MACON, Ga. - The Mercer baseball team has been picked to finish tied for first in the 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Coaches' poll while four Bears were named to the A-Sun Preseason All-Conference team released on Thursday afternoon.
Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast both finished with 81 points in the poll, making 2013 the second time in the last three years that both schools have been picked tied for first in the A-Sun Preseason poll. The difference in this year's poll from 2011, however, is that Mercer was selected as tournament champion after leading all schools with three first-place votes.
"It's always an honor to be picked to win our league because of the depth and quality of the other teams we play against every single weekend," head coach Craig Gibson said. "Obviously it's nice to be recognized before the season, but we know once February 15 comes around none of this stuff matters, and we need to go out and compete every single game if we want to be on top at the end."
The Bears are also tied with North Florida with a league-high four players named to the A-Sun Preseason All-Conference team. Senior shortstop Evan Boyd, junior designated hitter Nick Backlund and outfielder Derrick Workman and sophomore third baseman Chesny Young were all voted onto the team.
"I am happy we had so many of our guys voted onto the preseason team, especially Evan because he gets to represent our great senior class. We have an outstanding group of seniors this year, and the team chemistry has been great thus far, so hopefully we can maintain our focus and energy as the season approaches."
Boyd was an A-Sun All-Conference second team selection as a junior last season, hitting .335 while leading the league with 42 walks and 20 doubles. The Albany, Ga. native enters his senior season just 44 games, 223 at-bats, 37 runs scored, 13 doubles and 30 walks away from setting the Mercer all-time career record in each respective statistic.
For Backlund, the honor is his third significant award he has received after being named a Louisville Slugger Preseason First Team All-American and a National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Preseason First Team All-American. The San Jose, Calif. native led the A-Sun Conference with a .381 batting average, .668 slugging percentage, 85 hits and 149 total bases last season.
Workman was selected to the A-Sun All-Conference first team and the A-Sun Conference All-Academic team as a sophomore. The Acworth, Ga. native finished 12th in the A-Sun Conference with a .333 batting average on the strength of 70 hits and ranked ninth in the league with a .422 on-base percentage.
Young is one of only two sophomores on the team after being named the A-Sun Conference Freshman of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American in 2012. The Atlanta, Ga. native had a sparkling debut season for Mercer, ranking third in the A-Sun Conference with a .367 batting average, fourth with a .443 on-base percentage and seventh with 79 hits.
USC Upstate's Gaither Bumgardner was voted the A-Sun Conference Preseason Player of the Year, while FGCU junior Ricky Knapp was named the A-Sun Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
Mercer officially opens the 2013 season on the road when it travels to Sarasota, Florida to take on Ohio State as part of the Snowbird Baseball Classic on February 15.