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With less than two months before the start of the 2012 college baseball season, preseason polls and accolades will be coming out fairly regularly in the coming weeks.

The first of those major preseason polls was announced today by Collegiate Baseball magazine. The “Fabulous 40" included the Stetson Hatters at No. 26, a four spot jump from where the team ended the 2011 season.

“We are extremely happy to have the recognition in the preseason,” Hatters coach Pete Dunn said. “The hard work of last years’ team, and being ranked in the top 30 last year, with the majority of that team returning, contributes to that preseason ranking.”

“As nice as the preseason ranking is, we have to go out and earn that on the field and, hopefully, improve upon it when the season starts.”

The Hatters return a fully-loaded roster of veteran players from a club that reached the Columbia, SC, Regional final against eventual national champion South Carolina. The Gamecocks are again highly ranked, entering the 2012 season as the No. 2 team in the country behind Florida.

“Having 42 of the 43 wins returning in the pitching staff along with most of the position players back gives us an opportunity to have a good season,” Dunn said of the Hatters. “We feel very good about this group of returning players, but we are also excited about some of the new players who were recruited to join this club.”

Stetson returns last season’s Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year, Kurt Schluter, who was also named to the Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger All-America team last spring after posting an 8-0 record with a 1.40 ERA, before missing the final six weeks of the year with an injury.

“The fact that Kurt was able to win those honors despite missing so much of the year is a testament to how well he pitched,” Dunn said. “He was back to full health in the fall and is poised to have another big year for us.”

In addition to Schluter, the Hatters also return Lindsey Caughel (6-2, 4.88), Will Dorsey (7-6, 4.52) and Austin Perez (2-3, 4.64) as starting pitchers as well as bullpen stars Robbie Powell (5-3, 3.42, 8 saves) and Jake Boyd (9-1, 2.93, 6 saves).

Offensively, the Hatters return seven of the nine bats to the regular lineup and are expecting big things from the addition of catcher Sam Kimmel and the continued growth of sophomore outfielder Kyle Zech, who will likely fill the only vacancies.

In addition to Stetson, fellow Atlantic Sun Conference member Jacksonville is ranked the preseason poll. The Dolphins are number 38 and, along with Florida, Florida State, Miami, Stetson, UCF and FIU give the state of Florida more teams in the top 40 than any other state. Both Texas and California came in with six teams each in the top 40.

The Hatters are scheduled to open the 2012 season on Friday, February 17, when they host George Washington to open a three-game weekend series at Melching Field. Season tickets for Stetson baseball are available through the Athletics Ticket Office by calling 386-822-8110 or clicking on the Ticket Office link on GoHatters.com.

Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's   
NCAA Division I Pre-Season Top 40 Poll
 
Rank
School 2011 Record Points
1. Florida 53-19 497
2. South Carolina 55-14 494
3. Stanford 35-22 490
4. North Carolina 51-16 488
5. Texas 49-19 485
6. Texas A&M 47-22 484
7. Rice 42-21 482
8. Arkansas 40-22 479
9. Georgia Tech 42-21 476
10. TCU 43-19 474
11. St. John's 36-22 470
12. LSU 36-20 468
13. Florida State 46-19 465
14. Miami, Fla. 38-23 464
15. Louisville 32-29 460
16. Oklahoma 41-19 458
17. Arizona State 43-18 457
18. Georgia 33-32 455
19. UCLA 35-24 454
20. Arizona 39-21 452
21. Cal State Fullerton 41-17 449
22. California 38-23 447
23. Vanderbilt 54-12 445
24. Oregon State 41-19 443
25. Clemson 43-20 437
26. Stetson 43-20 435
27. Oregon 33-26-1 432
28. Baylor 31-28 430
29. U.C. Irvine 43-18 425
30. Southern Miss 39-19 422
31. Missouri State 33-23 419
32. College of Charleston 39-22 417
33. Virginia 56-12 413
34. Georgia Southern 36-26 412
35. Texas State 41-23 408
36. UCF 39-23 406
37. Wichita State 39-26 403
38. Jacksonville 37-24 400
39. FIU 40-20-1 397
40. USC 25-31 395

OTHER TEAMS RECEIVING VOTES: Coastal Carolina, Oklahoma State, Charlotte, East Carolina, Kent State, Creighton, Oral Roberts, Troy, South Alabama, San Diego, Gonzaga, San Francisco, Fresno State, Hawaii, Dallas Baptist, N.C. State, Mississippi State, Auburn, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Stony Brook, Maine, Connecticut, Seton Hall, Notre Dame, South Florida, Liberty, Winthrop, Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Missouri, Cal Poly, Long Beach State, U.C. Riverside, James Madison, Tulane, Houston, Manhattan, Rider, Central Michigan, Illinois State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Austin Peay, Samford, Elon, UNC Greensboro, Southeastern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin, UL-Lafayette, Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, San Jose State, New Mexico State, Cal. State-Bakersfield

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