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February 9, 2009

Conference Preview: Atlantic 10

Countdown to First Pitch: More season previews

Rivals.com's Atlantic 10 Preview
Predicted order of finish Preseason all-conference

1. Charlotte
2. Xavier
3. Rhode Island
4. Dayton
5. Richmond
6. Temple
7. George Washington
8. Fordham
9. Duquesne
10. St. Bonaventure
11. Massachusetts
12. Saint Louis
13. St. Joseph's
14. La Salle

C. Evan Stehle, Richmond
1B. Tim Reeves, George Washington
2B. Corey Shaylor, Charlotte
SS. Tom Zebroski, George Washington
3B. Aaron Bray, Charlotte
OF. Mike Carroll, Duquesne
OF. Byron McCoy, Temple
OF. Brian Baudinet, Massachusetts
DH. Rob Lyerly, Charlotte
SP. Joe Yermal, Charlotte
SP. Nick Greenwood, Rhode Island
SP. Danny Rosenbaum, Xavier
RP. Luke Demko, Rhode Island
Atlantic 10 breakdown
Team on the rise
When coach Rob Valli took over Temple's program it almost seemed like a hopeless proposition, but don't tell that to the fourth-year coach. After guiding the Owls to an overall record of 12-41 in '06, Valli didn't hesitate to turn the ship around sooner rather than later. The Owls finished the '07 season with an overall record of 18-37 and showed some improvement. Last season, meanwhile, the Owls reached the conference tournament for the first time in six seasons and finished the year with a respectable 16-11 conference record. The Owls could be even more improved this season. Give Valli some credit for at least changing the program's attitude.
Coach on the rise
Jim Foster, Rhode Island
Foster has made a bold statement in his first three seasons with the program. After guiding the Rams to an impressive 34-16 overall record in his first season, Foster led the program to an overall record of 23-30 and a conference record of 16-11 in '07. Foster and the Rams got back to business last season by finishing 15-11 in conference and compiling an overall record of 31-27. With the Rams expected to compete for the conference crown this season, look for Foster's stock to rise even more. URI doesn't have many resources, but Foster is great at maximizing the program's potential.
Best pitcher
LHP Nick Greenwood, Rhode Island
Rhode Island had a respectable '08 campaign but hopes to take another step forward this season with veteran pitcher Nick Greenwood leading the way. Greenwood had an impressive sophomore campaign last season. He made 14 starts and 15 appearances last season and had a 3.72 ERA in 92 innings of work. He also struck out 95 and walked 24, while opponents hit him at a .266 clip. Greenwood also recorded one complete game and finished last year with a 6-6 record. Can Greenwood put together another dominant campaign?
Best hitter
DH Rob Lyerly, Charlotte
Lyerly likely will miss the start of the season because of a shoulder injury, but will be back to his productive ways once healthy. Lyerly had an impressive sophomore campaign last season and hopes to be even better this season. Lyerly finished last season hitting .364 with 15 homers and 76 RBIs. He also recorded 26 doubles, two triples and 155 total bases. Lyerly also finished last season slugging .705 with a .416 on-base percentage. Though Charlotte has some tough holes to fill, the offense still should be productive with Lyerly and others back.
Kendall's analysis
Dayton listed its strength as the return of eight starting position players coming off a 31-win season, while a weakness includes injuries on the mound. Impact newcomers to watch includes freshman left-handed pitcher Cameron Hobson and freshman right-handed pitcher Charles Ghysels Charlotte once again is expected to win the conference title this season and has a good mix of balance both at the plate and on the mound. Possible designated hitter Garrett Hanselman is an impact newcomer to watch. Hanselman previously played for the 49ers but went on a two-year Mormon mission. He is expected to be a key contributor at the plate Richmond listed its strengths as a very athletic offensive lineup and good team defense, while inexperience throughout the pitching staff is a possible issue. Versatile freshman Adam McConnell is an impact newcomer to watch George Washington listed its strengths as good starting pitching and team defense, while weaknesses include less than stellar team speed and lack of power. JUCO transfer utility player Brandon Gillette is an impact newcomer to watch Temple listed its strengths as the return of six position starters and a few good pitchers. The glaring weakness is the starting rotation after staff ace Matt Mongiardini. Freshman left-handed pitcher Dan Moller is an impact newcomer to watch Rhode Island listed pitching depth and defense as strengths this season, while power at the plate could be a weakness. Two-way player Ryan O'Neill is an impact newcomer to watch Xavier listed the return of several veteran starters as its main strength, while an inexperienced pitching staff could be an issue at some point this season. Redshirt freshman right-handed pitcher Nathan Mutsch is an impact newcomer to watch.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports. He can be reached at rogersk@yahoo-inc.com.