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February 13, 2009

Conference Preview: Southland

Countdown to First Pitch: More season previews

Rivals.com's Southland Conference preview
Predicted order of finish Preseason all-conference

1. Texas-San Antonio
2. Texas State
3. Sam Houston State
4. Lamar
5. Northwestern State
6. Southeastern Louisiana
7. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
8. Texas-Arlington
9. McNeese State
10. Central Arkansas
11. Stephen F. Austin
12. Nicholls State

C. Taylor Freeman, McNeese State
1B. Paul Goldschmidt, Texas State
2B. Josh Huffman, Central Arkansas
SS. Ty Summerlin, Southeastern Louisiana
3B. Seth Hammock, Sam Houston State
OF. Michael Rockett, Texas-San Antonio
OF. Michael Choice, Texas-Arlington
OF. Steven Tucker, Lamar
DH. Lance Loftin, Texas State
SP. Jimmy Heard, Northwestern State
SP. Dallas Gallant, Sam Houston State
SP. Zach Tritz, Texas State
RP. Zach Calhoon, Texas-San Antonio
Southland Conference breakdown
Team on the rise
Texas-San Antonio
The Roadrunners have become one of the better teams in the state of Texas the past few seasons. UTSA finished the '06 season second in the SLC with an overall record of 37-22. The last two seasons, meanwhile, have included back-to-back conference regular season titles. The Roadrunners finished the '07 season with a 24-6 conference mark and an overall record of 36-22. They were even better last season, compiling a 22-8 league record and an overall record of 39-19. Though UTSA still must find a way to make a splash on the national stage, it certainly has become the premier program in the SLC.
Coach on the rise
Sherman Corbett, Texas-San Antonio
There was a transition period when Corbett arrived at UTSA, but now it seems like every season is a honeymoon for the ninth-year coach and the Roadrunners. Corbett has guided the Roadrunners to back-to-back conference titles. He also has earned back-to-back SLC Coach of the Year honors, while also already becoming the winningest coach in UTSA history with 250 victories. Also worth noting, the Roadrunners tied a school record for wins in a season last year with 39. With the program expected to win the SLC title again this season, Corbett's stock surely will continue to rise.
Best pitcher
RHP Jimmy Heard, Northwestern State
If there's a single player that could guide the Demons to an NCAA regional this season it's senior right-handed pitcher Jimmy Heard. Heard is coming off a stellar junior campaign last season. He made 14 starts and had a 3.82 ERA in 94 1/3 innings of work. He also struck out 66 and walked 20, while opponents hit him at a .263 clip. Also worth noting, he finished last season with a pair of complete games and compiled a respectable 7-5 record.
Best hitter
OF Michael Rockett, Texas-San Antonio
Rockett was one of the nation's most underrated players last season, but that certainly isn't the case this season. Rockett already has earned some headlines and likely will earn more the rest of the spring. The senior outfielder is coming off a phenomenal junior campaign. Rockett finished last season hitting .360 with 10 homers and 68 RBIs. He also recorded 25 doubles, five triples and 154 total bases. Additionally, Rockett had a .623 slugging percentage last season and also had a .382 on-base percentage. He was 9-for-11 in stolen bases. Keep an eye on Rockett as the season progresses.
Kendall's analysis
SFA listed its strengths as the return of several experienced pitchers, the presence of several left-handed hitters and team defense. JUCO transfer outfielder Bo Coffman is an impact newcomer to watch Texas A&M-Corpus Christi listed its strengths as a revamped starting rotation and having four seniors hitting at the top of the offensive lineup. The outfield is a potential weakness entering the season. Impact newcomers to watch include JUCO transfers Andrew Toppert and Brett Carnline, who will be the No. 1 and No. 2 weekend starters for the Islanders Sam Houston State listed its strengths as pitching depth, good middle of the lineup and improved outfield defense. The only weakness is the loss of four top hitters, including Bobby Verbick, Todd Sebek and Keith Stein. Impact newcomers to watch include closer Sean Weatherford, starting pitcher Jordan Westra, outfielders Tyler Lundy and Tyler Knight, shortstop Jon Reed and designated hitter Peter Goudeau Central Arkansas listed its biggest strength as starting pitching while weaknesses include several new faces, inexperience and many young players. Impact newcomers to watch include pitcher Brandon Solberg and first baseman Blake Roberts Texas State has put together some impressive campaigns the past few seasons but has been unable to take the next step. The Bobcats will try to do so again this season, as they return three excellent hitters in Paul Goldschmidt, Lance Loftin and Adam Witek in addition to all-conference pitcher Zach Tritz While outfielder Michael Rockett gets most of the headlines for UTSA, also keep an eye on junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Proudfoot. Proudfoot, the staff ace, made 12 starts last season, threw two complete games and had a 4.61 ERA in 70 1/3 innings of work. He also struck out 46 and walked 47, while opponents hit him at a .260 clip. If Proudfoot can get his control issues under wraps this season, perhaps he could become the conference's best starting pitcher.

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