Feb. 6, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - Led by both the league's preseason pitcher and player of the year selections, Western Carolina, the 2013 regular season champion, landed five individuals on the Southern Conference first team on Thursday afternoon while garnering the top spot in both the media and coaches' preseason polling.
Already dubbed a two-time Preseason All-America selection, senior shortstop Aaron Attaway was chosen as the league's player of the year with junior right-hander Jeremy Null tabbed as the league's preseason pitcher of the year. The duo is joined on the preseason first team this year by senior Jordan Smith (starting pitcher), senior Adam Martin (catcher) and junior Jacob Hoyle (first base). Martin was a second-team All-SoCon selection in 2013.
The five preseason all-conference selections is equal to the total number WCU had a season ago which had been the most for a Catamount squad since 2008. Attaway earned his third preseason honor with Hoyle landing on the preseason honorary squad for a second-consecutive year. Martin, Null and Smith were recognized for the first time.
All told, The Citadel had a league-high seven players earn preseason honors, with three appearing on the first team and four earning second-team spots. WCU was second with five total selections, followed by Appalachian State with three. Georgia Southern and Wofford had two each, while Elon and UNCG had one each. Eight of the 10 SoCon schools were represented with at least one preseason selection.
Attaway was a first-team All-SoCon - and a second team ABCA All-Region selection - at shortstop last season, when he hit .363 and led the league with 97 total hits and 68 runs scored. The Morganton, N.C., native started all 59 contests for the Catamounts in the 2013 championship season. He was also among the 14 finalists for the Brooks Wallace Award, which is given annually to the nation's top shortstop, and was a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, which honors the top collegiate baseball player.
Already this preseason, Attaway has earned All-America plaudits from Baseball America and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. He has been an ironman in the middle infield, starting all 170 of his career games.
Null is coming off a season where he shared the SoCon lead with nine victories, posting a 9-2 record with a 3.46 ERA, which was good for fifth in the league. A second-team All-SoCon pick in 2013, Null started 14 games for the regular-season champion Catamounts, striking out 109 batters, second-most in the conference. He also walked just 27 batters in 91 innings of work and held opposing hitters to just a .240 batting average.
Null was twice named a Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week last season and was the SoCon Player of the Week on April 22. The 6-8, 230-pound Claremont, N.C., native needs just 42 strikeouts this season to enter WCU's career top 10.
Fellow right-handed starting pitcher, Jordan Smith, recorded a 7-3 record a season ago with his career-best 3.73 ERA which ranked 11th overall in the SoCon. The Liberty, N.C., native totaled 70 strikeouts, fanning at least three in each outing including twice striking out a season-high seven, both coming in conference play. Smith enters his final season ranked 14th in WCU's record books with 209 career strikeouts. He has 44 career starts, fifth-most in program history, with his 269.2 career innings ranking him ninth in the school's ledgers.
Senior catcher Adam Martin played in 42 games a season ago with 39 starts, 30 behind the dish. A Johnny Bench Award candidate last spring, the Marietta, Ga., product batted .286 with 18 extra base hits including 10 doubles and eight home runs. He earned both SoCon and Southeast Region Player of the Week accolades in late April after going 8-for-11 (.727) with five extra base hits in wins over Gardner-Webb and a three-game sweep of Georgia Southern.
A career .285 hitter with 26 doubles, three triples and 20 homers, Martin was tagged as the No. 1 prospect coming out of the Northwoods Summer League after batting .315 with 18 doubles and 10 home runs.
Jacob Hoyle finished the season hitting .310 last spring with 29 extra base hits including 16 doubles, a pair of triples and 11 homeruns. He finished third on the squad with a career-best 52 RBI, tied for 10th in the league. He posted 20 multi-hit games and was just one of four Catamounts to record five-or-more RBI in a single game in 2013. Hoyle joined Attaway on the 2014 Louisville Slugger Preseason All-America team as chosen and released by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
A Freshman All-America selection in 2012, Hoyle is a career .309 hitter. The Hickory, N.C., native has 30 career doubles, 15 home runs and 97 RBIs through his first two seasons for the Purple & Gold.
In preseason polling, the Catamounts, who went 39-20 overall and 23-7 in the league last season, picked up seven first-place votes and 78 points from the coaches, who could not vote for their own teams. WCU edged The Citadel, which earned 75 points and the remaining three first-place votes in the coaches' poll. Western Carolina earned 167 points and 13 first-place votes from the media.
The Citadel is behind WCU in both the coaches and media poll. The Bulldogs, who return all but SoCon Championship Most Outstanding Player Joe Jackson from its everyday lineup a year ago, picked up two first-place votes and 149 total points in the media poll.
The coaches tabbed Appalachian State to finish third (60 points), while Elon, last season's SoCon tournament winner, was the fourth pick with 59 points. Georgia Southern was fifth with 48 points, followed by Furman (38), Samford (35), UNCG (30), Wofford (15) and Davidson (12).
In the media poll, Georgia Southern picked up two first-place votes and finished third with 131 points, while Elon was again edged by just one point, finishing in fourth with 130 points and one first-place vote.
Appalachian State was fifth with 119 points, followed by Samford (97), Furman (77), UNCG (60), Davidson (31) and Wofford (29).
Season tickets for the 2014 campaign are on sale now through WCU Athletics Ticket Office. Pricing begins at just $50 for an adult general admission and $25 for a youth for all 30 home dates. Reserved seating options in both field and upper level are available. Call the ticket office at (800)34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401, or purchase online at CatamountSports.com.
Fans can keep track of the Catamount through the WCU Athletics' social media outlets on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports), Twitter (@catamounts), YouTube (CatamountSports) and Instagram (wcu_catamounts).
The 2014 Opening Day is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 14 as the Catamounts host Ohio for a three-game, nonconference set at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium.