Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina sophomore infielder Justice Bigbie and redshirt senior outfielder Matthew Koehler were named to the 2019 preseason All-Southern Conference baseball teams announced today by the league office. The Catamounts were also pegged sixth and seventh, respectively, in preseason polling of the coaches’ and voting media.
The preseason accolades are the first for both Koehler and Bigbie after WCU did not have a preseason all-conference selection a season ago. WCU’s sixth and seventh-place predictions are the lowest for the squad since 2013 with WCU was again tagged sixth in the preseason polling. The Catamounts went on to a 39-win season in 2013, winning the regular season title and making a push for an at-large bid into the NCAA postseason.
Fifth-year senior Matthew Koehler played in all 58 games a season ago for the Catamounts, making 55 combined starts in the outfield between left and center. Hot out of the gates to start the season, the Raleigh, N.C., native finished with a .241 batting average with 51 total hits including 19 for extra bases with 10 doubles, two triples
Coming off a tremendous rookie season that saw him land on both the SoCon’s All-Freshman team and earn Freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball, Justice Bigbie will be called upon to step-up again in 2019. A product of Chesapeake, Va., Bigbie started 57 of the team’s 58 games a year ago, seeing the bulk of his action in the outfield with 33 starts in right field. He also had 13 starts at second and eight at third where he is expected to get the starting nod this season. Bigbie hit .324 as a frosh, ranking second on the team and as this year’s top returner, with 20 of his team-best 73 hits going for extra bases including 14 doubles, a triple and five home runs. He also led the Catamounts with 46 RBI including a clutch 13 two-out runs driven in.
All nine SoCon baseball schools were represented on the preseason teams. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players or for their team in the polls. Both the first and second team feature 12 players.
Samford and Mercer led the way, both with three preseason all-conference first-team selections and the Bulldogs collected a second-team nod to pace the two squads with four total selections. The Citadel and defending regular-season champion UNCG, both collected two first-team preseason all-conference picks while ETSU and Wofford rounded out this year’s first team win one selection each.
Samford, the reigning SoCon tournament champion, was tabbed as the presumptive favorite in both the preseason coaches’ and media polls with the top three mirroring each other on the podium. UNCG was selected second followed by Mercer. The remainder of the poll was rearranged in pairs through the ninth-place finishing order. ETSU and Wofford swapped the fourth and fifth locations with the Buccaneers selected fourth by the coaches and the Terriers by the media.
Western Carolina and Furman flip-flopped the sixth and seventh positions, respectively in the media voting and opposite in the media polling, while The Citadel and VMI rounded out the tabulations with the Bulldogs in eighth in the coaches and the Keydets in the media poll.
UNCG junior infielder Caleb Webster was tagged as the preseason favorite to take home Player of the Year hardware, while sophomore pitcher Sam Strickland
The 2019 season opens for all nine league teams on Friday, Feb. 15. WCU opens an eight-game
2019 Preseason All-Southern Conference
Preseason Player of the Year
Caleb Webster, Jr. UNCG
Preseason Pitcher of the Year
Sam Strickland, So., Samford
SP Dylan Spence, The Citadel
SP Sam Strickland, Samford
RP Nick Spear, Mercer
C Anthony Mulrine, Samford
1B Brooks Carlson, Samford
2B Austin Embler, UNCG
SS RJ Yeager, Mercer
3B Caleb Webster, UNCG
OF Jeffrey Brown, The Citadel
OF David Beam, ETSU
OF Colin Davis, Wofford
DH Le Bassett, Mercer
SP Nik Verbeke, Furman
SP Austin Higginbotham, Wofford
RP Anthony Garcia, Wofford
C Bryce Leasure, The Citadel
1B Jacob Huggins, VMI
2B Cullen Smith, ETSU
SS Branden Fryman, Samford
3B Justice Bigbie, Western Carolina
OF Jabari Richards, Furman
OF Matthew Koehler, Western Carolina
OF Kel Johnson, Mercer
DH Lawson Hill, Wofford