Atlantic Sun Conference Preview
Stetson's Logan Gilbert (Photo by Shawn McFarland)
Team to Beat: Stetson.
Not only does Stetson return the top player in the conference in righthander Logan Gilbert (10-0, 2.02) to anchor the weekend rotation, but coach Steve Trimper has the luxury of having all three of his weekend starters back. Along with Gilbert, Stetson returns righthanders Jack Perkins (7-5, 2.71) and Brooks Wilson (4-7, 3.01), giving the Hatters an enviable trio of junior starters, who helped push Stetson to a conference-leading 9.68 K/9 last season. The offensive side of the ball is more of a question mark for Stetson, but will have junior outfielder/first baseman Mike Spooner (.303/.380/.412) back in the three-hole to provide a consistent threat in the middle of the lineup. If players like speedy outfielder Andrew MacNeil (.252/.384/.333) can take a step forward, Stetson should be dangerous on all fronts, though their pitching staff is talented and deep enough to keep them in most games, regardless.
Player of the Year: Charlie Carpenter, C, South Carolina-Upstate.
Carpenter returns for his senior season with South Carolina-Upstate after finishing second in the conference in batting average (.357), second in slugging percentage (.592) and fourth in on-base percentage (.441) last season. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound catcher was drafted in the 26th round by the Braves in the 2017 draft, but returns for his fourth year to add to his list of collegiate accolades which includes being named to the Atlantic Sun all-freshman team in 2015.
Pitcher of the Year: Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson.
After winning the Atlantic Sun pitcher of the year award in 2017, Gilbert is poised to become the first player in conference history to win the award in back-to-back seasons. He is coming off an all-star summer campaign in the Cape Cod League, where he was the No. 4 ranked prospect and went 1-2, 1.72. Gilbert, who is ranked the No. 14 overall prospect for the 2018 Draft, pitches off of one of the best fastballs in the country and also has a trio of secondary offerings—curveball, slider, changeup—that range from solid to plus. Gilbert has the best stuff in the conference and his A-Sun-leading K/9 (10.82) lines up with that. If he stays healthy and pitches to his talent, he’s a safe bet to repeat in 2018.
Freshman of the Year: Tyler Shuck, 3B, Florida Gulf Coast.
Shuck was a member of back-to-back state championship teams at Canterbury (Fort Myers, Fla.) High in 2016 and 2017 and was an integral member of the team as both a pitcher and a hitter. Shuck had a career 15-3 record with a 1.74 ERA, but is the team’s projected starter at the hot corner. Shuck is a physical, 6-foot-3, 210-pound player who has the strength and potential to become a middle-of-the-order type hitter with solid defensive ability as well. He was a career .373 hitter in high school, including 13 home runs and will have a chance to hit and pitch for the Eagles, though his immediate impact should come via the bat.
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Will Chris Hayes second year in Jacksonville be as fruitful as the first? Hayes led the Dolphins to one of the most successful seasons they’ve had in years, with a 36-24 overall record and the Atlantic Sun regular-season title. Hayes also led the team to the tournament championship game and a 13-game winning streak that is the team’s longest in 26 years. Righthander Michael Baumann (5-3, 3.09)) and lefty Casey Kulina (6-1, 2.46) won’t be easy to replace in the rotation, and leading hitter Nate Koslowski (.329/.407/.448) graduated, but junior righthander/DH Chris Gau is back (2-4, 3.96; .400/.463/.600). The Dolphins have recruited well in recent years, leaving Hayes a strong, athletic team that can challenge Stetson for the conference championship.
Can FGCU find ways to replace departed stars Nick Rivera (.303/.449/.610), Julio Gonzalez (.326/.409/.473) and Kutter Crawford (7-1, 1.71)? Coach Dave Tollett returns 21 letterman from the a banner 2017 team that went 43-20 and earned the first NCAA Tournament berth in program history, but losing the top two hitters on the team as well as the staff ace is a lot to replace. Lefthander Josh Dye (8-5, 3.23) gives FGCU a reliable starter in its rotation and talented sophomores Alex Brait (.296/.386/.417) Marc Coffers (.279/.342/.402) will be asked to take on larger roles in the lineup. The Eagles also have a new-look coaching staff, as Tollett had to replace longtime assistant coach Rusty McKee following his retirement and Wes Sargent, who took a job as a scout. Matt Reid and Brandon Romans join the Eagles, as they look to build on last year’s success.
Tournament: Six teams, May 23-26, at Harmon Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.
Top 10 2018 Draft Prospects:
1. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
2. Jack Perkins, RHP, Stetson
3. Brooks Wilson, RHP, Stetson
4. Chris Gau, RHP/DH, Jacksonville
5. Charlie Carpenter, C, South Carolina-Upstate
6. Mike Anastasia, OF, New Jersey Tech
7. Evan Lumbert, RHP, Florida Gulf Coast
8. Peyton Gray, RHP, Florida Gulf Coast
9. Taylor Allum, 1B/OF, Kennesaw State
10. Lee Solomon, 2B, Lipscomb