Jacksonville State was the overwhelming favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference baseball title as the league announced its annual preseason prognostications a week before the opening of the 2020 season.
The defending tournament champions were picked ﬁrst in a vote of OVC head baseball coaches and communications directors.
The league also announced All-OVC preseason selections as three Gamecocks gained preseason recognition. Senior Alex Webb, junior Cole Frederick and sophomore Isaiah Magwood were among the 17 players on the list. Jax State's trio was most among the 11 teams in the league.
The voting saw three different teams pick up ﬁrst-place votes with Jacksonville State picking up 19 of the 22 total ﬁrst-place votes, Eastern Kentucky receiving two votes and Morehead State picking up the ﬁnal ﬁrst-place vote. JSU tallied 199 points, which was 45 more than second-place Eastern Kentucky (154). EKU edged past Austin Peay (153) who was tabbed third. Belmont (136) received one more point than ﬁ fth-place Morehead State (135). Murray State was picked sixth (114) and followed by Southeast Missouri (94), Eastern Illinois (79), Tennessee Tech (54), UT Martin (52) and SIUE (40).
A year ago, JSU claimed its ﬁfth OVC Tournament title and ﬁrst since 2014 by sweeping three opponents by a combined score of 24-12. The Gamecocks would go on to eliminate Illinois and Clemson at the NCAA Oxford Regional before falling to the host Rebels in the Championship Round. Head coach Jim Case begins his 19th year with the Gamecocks; a year ago he moved into ﬁfth place on the OVC's all-time wins list (531).
This season he returns 24 letterwinners and eight starters from the regional squad. Among the returning players are the three Preseason All-OVC selections Webb, Frederick and Magwood. Webb was also named a Preseason Collegiate Baseball All-American after he posted a .304 batting average, hit nine home runs and drove in 57 runs a year ago and was named MVP of the OVC Tournament. Frederick started 61 games a season ago and batted .287 with 75 hits and 49 runs scored. Magwood started eight games, tallying a 3-0 record and 4.12 E.R.A. while striking out 63 batters in his rookie year. He pitched 6.2 innings and picked up the victory over Austin Peay during the OVC Tournament.
Jax State opens the 2020 campaign Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium on Friday, February 14 at 3 p.m. against Southeastern Conference foe Missouri. The season-opening series will continue through the weekend with a 3 p.m. first pitch on Saturday and closing out the weekend on Sunday at 12 p.m.
Season tickets are available for purchase online at JSUGamecocksTickets.com, by phone at (256) 782-8499 and on campus at the JSU Ticket Office at Pete Mathews Coliseum. Children 18-years-old and under and JSU students are admitted free.
(Courtesy: JSU Sports Information: www.jsugamecocksports.com)