Baseball: Defending champion Panthers picked to repeat in USA South preseason poll

Baseball: Defending champion Panthers picked to repeat in USA South preseason poll

LaGrange is picked to win the 2018 USA South Athletic Conference baseball title in the preseason coaches poll. The Panthers captured their first USA South regular season and tournament titles last season while posting a school record 40-6 mark.

LC is ranked 10th nationally in the Top 25 preseason poll. David Kelton enters his fifth season as coach of the Panthers three wins shy of 100 for his career. Senior outfielder James Poropatic leads the returning players. Poropatic, a second team All-Conference selection, batted .373 with a home run and 29 RBIs. Fellow senior Billy Peatross had a .283 average with a home run and 23 RBIs. Sophomore Richie Post (4-2, 3.06 ERA) was the conference's Rookie Pitcher of the Year. Senior relief pitcher Austin Perez (1-0, 1.31 ERA, 1 save) heads up the bullpen.

The Panthers received seven of 12 first-place votes and 107 points as head coaches do not vote for their own teams in the balloting for the USA South preseason poll. Piedmont College, last year's tournament runner-up, ranked second with 98 points and final remaining five first place votes. Ferrum College and Maryville College tied for third with 90 points each. N.C. Wesleyan College was fifth with 88 points, while Greensboro College followed in sixth with 83 points to round out the top-half of the poll.

This season, the conference welcomes new league members Berea College, Brevard College, and Pfeiffer University. Brevard and Pfeiffer will not be included in the polls as they are each reclassifying from Division II and are not eligible for championship honors this season. 

The Panthers are one of four conference teams opening the season Feb. 2. LC hosts Sewanee in Phil Williamson Stadium at Cleaveland Field.

The 2018 USA South Baseball Tournament will be played April 11-14 on the Panthers' home field as a part of the USA South Spring Sports Festival, hosted by the City of LaGrange and Troup County. The top-eight teams following regular season play will advance to the double-elimination tournament.