JSU

JSU head coach Jim Case has a meeting on the mound with catcher Hayden White and pitcher Colton Pate during the 2017 OVC tournament. (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

The Ohio Valley Conference baseball coaches and sports information directors are predicting Jacksonville State will finish third in the league this season.

In voting totals issued by the conference office, Tennessee Tech was picked first and received 15 of the 22 first-place votes. Coaches and sports information directors weren’t allowed to vote for their own schools.

Morehead State, which was picked second with 181 points, received five first-place votes. No. 3 Jacksonville State (156) and No. 4 Belmont (148) each got one vote for first. They were followed by Southeast Missouri (115), Murray State (104), Austin Peay (103), Eastern Illinois (62), Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (57), Tennessee-Martin (52) and Eastern Kentucky (42).

Jacksonville State (30-26, 17-13 OVC) was tied for third last season.

Tennessee Tech won the regular-season and tournament championships a year ago. The Golden Eagles ranked third in NCAA Division I with 504 runs, and they scored a win in the NCAA regional round over Florida State before falling.

The Gamecocks put starting pitcher Derrick Adams on the preseason All-OVC first team, which included 14 players from the 11 league teams that field baseball teams. He was 7-3 last year with a 5.04 ERA.

JSU has 18 players returning after earning letters last season. The group includes senior infielder Clayton Daniel, who batted .328. Senior Trent Simpson, who led the team with 12 home runs, is back as well.

Starting pitcher Colton Pate (2-7, 5.67) returns, which gives head coach Jim Case two of his three conference series pitchers back. The Gamecocks lost OVC pitcher of the year Joe McGuire (8-1, 3.20) to graduation and ace relief pitcher Justin Hoyt (4-1, 2.82) to the Major League Baseball draft.

Morehead State outfielder Niko Hulsizer was named OVC preseason player of the year, while Belmont’s Dylan King was picked as the league’s preseason pitcher of the year.

Hulsizer set OVC records last year with 27 home runs and 193 total bases. He paced a Morehead State offense and ranked second nationally with 525 runs. He won the College Home Run Derby with 49 home runs over three rounds.

The season will culminate with the OVC baseball tournament at Choccolocco Park in Oxford on May 22-27. The facility hosted the event last year as well.

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.