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Liberty Picked to Win North Division in Big South Preseason Baseball Poll

January 30, 2013
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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2012 Freshman All-American and Big South Freshman of the Year Alex Close and the Flames have been picked to win the North Division this season

The Liberty Flames have been selected to win the Big South Conference's North Division this season, as the league's annual preseason baseball poll was released this morning by the league's office. The poll is voted on by the conference's head coaches.

Liberty received seven first-place votes and garnered 67 points in being tabbed to rest atop the North Division standings at season's end.

This season will be the first year of divisional play for Big South teams.  Campbell, High Point, Liberty, Longwood, Radford and VMI will comprise the North Division, while Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian College, UNC Asheville and Winthrop makeup the South Division.

Defending conference champion Coastal Carolina was a unanimous selection to capture the South Division crown.

The conference's runner-up in 2012, Liberty posted a 41-19 overall record, the second time in three years the Flames have won 40 or more games in a season, and a 14-10 Big South mark.

Head coach Jim Toman, who enters his sixth season at Liberty, welcomes back several key members from last season's squad. Sophomore first baseman Alex Close, senior infielder Bryan Aanderud, senior catcher Trey Wimmer and junior outfielder Ryan Cordell lead the returnees for Toman's team.

Alex Close was named Big South Freshman of the Year and selected to the NCBWA and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American teams last season, while Aanderud earned all-conference honors after leading the Flames in batting average and RBIs. Meanwhile, Wimmer, a team captain for the second consecutive year, ended the 2012 season by being named to the Big South all-tournament team. Cordell was selected as the top major league prospect in the Great Lakes League this past summer.

Campbell garnered one first-place vote and 55 points in being selected to finish second in the North Division, edging out High Point, which garnered four first-place votes and 53 points.  Radford was selected to finish the season in fourth with 39 votes, followed by VMI with 22 votes and Longwood with 16.

Six-time defending Big South champion Coastal Carolina was chosen to finish the year as the South Division's top team, garnering all 12 first-place votes and 72 points. The Chanticleers were followed by Gardner-Webb with 48 points, Charleston Southern with 42 points, Winthrop with 36, Asheville with 28 and Presbyterian College with 26.

Campbell infielder Michael Felton and Radford shortstop Jeff Kemp were named Co-Preseason Players of the Year.  Coastal Carolina right-hander Aaron Burke was selected as the conference's Preseason Pitcher of the Year.

Big South teams will play 24 conference games this season.  Each team will play three games against the squads in their division, plus three three-game series with teams from the opposite division.

Liberty begins its 2013 campaign with the first contest of a three-game series on Feb. 15 at South Carolina. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m. A week later on Feb. 22, the Flames will open their home schedule by christening Liberty Baseball Stadium. Toman's squad will host the Penn State Nittany Lions for the first of three contests over the weekend. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m.

The Flames begin Big South Conference play with a three-game series against Charleston Southern, March 15-17 at Liberty Baseball Stadium. The 2013 Big South Baseball Championship is slated for May 21-25 at Liberty Baseball Stadium.

Season tickets for the first season at the new Liberty Baseball Stadium are available now.  Tickets can be purchased by calling (434) 582-SEAT (7328) or by clicking here (link: https://www.ticketreturn.com/prod2/team.asp?SponsorID=5308).