Sam Houston State is favored to defend its Southland Conference regular-season baseball championship by a vote of the league's head coaches and sports information directors, the conference announced Wednesday.
The Bearkats were the overwhelming favorites in the coaches' polls, receiving the maximum nine first-place votes and 81 points. In the SID poll, the margin was closer with Sam Houston picking up four first-place votes and 75 points.
Sam Houston returns 17 letterwinners, six starters and four pitchers from a Bearkat squad that won its first regular-season title since 1989 and advanced to the championship game of the Houston Regional.
Among the returning players are first-team all-conference selections Kevin Miller, Anthony Azar and Caleb Smith. Sam Houston, which finished the 2012 season with a 40-22 overall record, went 24-9 in conference play, recording its first 20-win season in conference play in school history.
The second- and third-place teams in both polls are separated by less than three points.
Southeastern Louisiana was selected second in both polls, gathering the final first-place vote from the coaches for 68 points and three first-place nods from the SIDs for 72 points. The Lions finished second in the conference standings last season with a 20-13 mark in conference play and a 39-21 overall record.
Southland Conference newcomer Oral Roberts was slated third in both polls after receiving 65 total points from the coaches and 71 from the SIDs. The Golden Eagles picked up the final three first-place votes from the SIDs. ORU, which won its 15th consecutive Summit League title last season, finished with a 46-15 record and a trip to the Waco Regional.
Stephen F. Austin was selected fourth while Central Arkansas was picked fifth in both polls. The Lumberjacks picked up 48 points from the coaches and 51 points from the SIDs. The Bears earned 47 and 46 points from the coaches and SIDs, respectively.
Lamar, which has won a conference-best 10 regular season titles, was picked sixth followed by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the coaches' poll while the two teams tied for the sixth spot in the SID poll. In the coaches poll, the Cardinals earned 45 points and the Islanders picked up 32 points. Both teams received 34 points from the SIDs.
McNeese State was selected eighth followed by Northwestern State and Nicholls State to round out both polls.
Opening day of the Southland season is Feb. 15 with conference play beginning March 22. The Southland Conference tournament will be played May 22-25 at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas.
Rk. Team (first-place votes) Points
1. Sam Houston State (11) 81
2. Southeastern Louisiana (1) 68
3. Oral Roberts 65
4. Stephen F. Austin 48
5. Central Arkansas 47
6. Lamar 45
7. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 32
8. McNeese State 30
9. Northwestern State 19
10. Nicholls State 15
Sports Information Directors
Rk. Team (first-place votes) Points
1. Sam Houston State (4) 75
2. Southeastern Louisiana (3) 72
3. Oral Roberts (3) 71
4. Stephen F. Austin 51
5. Central Arkansas 46
T6. Lamar 34
T6. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 34
8. McNeese State 32
9. Northwestern State 22
10. Nicholls State 13
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