Baseball: Panthers second in 2019 USA South Baseball preseason poll

Baseball: Panthers second in 2019 USA South Baseball preseason poll

The LaGrange baseball team was second in the 2019 USA South Baseball preseason poll. Defending regular season champion Methodist was first and received six first place votes. The Panthers were next with four first place votes, then Piedmont with the final three first place votes.

LC is the two-time defending USA South Tournament champion and has made two straight NCAA Division III National Tournametn appearances. The Panthers were 30-18 in 2018, the third straight season of 30 or more wins. LC is one of 12 teams out of 389 in Division III to have a total of 100 or more wins the last three seasons.

Sophomore Gibson Bittner headlines the pitching staff. Bittner was selected to two All-Region teams and  was on the USA South All-Conference second team. He was 6-2 with a team and USA South best 1.45 earned run average for the 2018 season. Bittner was second on the team with 23 appearances, making one start and had two saves. He had 52 strikeouts in 56 innings of working, averaging a team-best 8.36 strikeouts per game. Senior Austin Fain had a 6-3 record and a 3.42 ERA in a team-high 14 starts. He led the team with 55 strikeouts. Junior Richie Post, the USA Rookie Pitcher of the Year in 2017, posted a 3-4 record in 11 starts with a 2.95 ERA.

Sophomore Jack Layrisson was the USA South Offensive Rookie of the Year and All-Conference honorable mention selection at first base last season. Layrisson batted .337 with four home runs and 43 RBIs. He had a team-best sluggin percentage of .531. Layrisson will move to third base for the 2019 season. Sophomore McKinley Erves batted .331 with 37 RBIs and tied for the team-lead with 10 doubles. Used primarily as a designated hitter last season, Erves will play in the outfield for 2019. Sophomore infielder Dawson Weaver batted .325 and had 18 RBIs in 2018.

The Panthers open the season Feb. 8 against Birmingham-Southern at 5 p.m. at Cleaveland Field in Williamson Stadium.

2019 USA South Coaches Preseason Baseball Poll

Rank

Institution (1st Place Votes)

Pts.

1.

Methodist^ (6)

137

t-2.

LaGrange# (4)

130

t-2.

Piedmont (3)

130 

4.

Maryville

100 

5.

Pfeiffer*

96 

6.

Huntingdon

94 

7.

N.C. Wesleyan

81 

8.

Greensboro

67 

9.

William Peace

55 

10. 

Covenant

54 

11.

Averett

32

12. 

Brevard*

26 

13. 

Berea

12 

*Ineligible for USA South Tournament (Div. III Reclassifying Member)
^Defending Regular Season Champion
#Defending Tournament Champion