2017 All-American and Big South Player of the Year D.J. Artis has been named the 2018 Big South Preseason Player of the Year, while the Liberty Flames have been selected to finish second in the Big South standings as the conference's 2018 preseason baseball poll was released this afternoon by the league's office. The poll is voted on by the conference's head coaches.
Artis, an outfielder, received eight first place votes and 25 points overall in being named the conference's preseason player of the year. Winthrop junior right-hander Nate Pawelczyk was tabbed the Big South Preseason Pitcher of the Year (26 points, 7 first place points) by the conference coaches.
Artis was named to three All-America teams following his stellar sophomore season in 2017. The outfielder was selected to the D1baseball.com All-America second team and the Baseball America and NCBWA All-America third teams. In addition, he was selected as the 2017 Big South Player of the Year.
The outfielder, who also earned all-conference first team honors for the second consecutive season in 2017, finished the year second in the nation with a .532 on base percentage and as the national leader in walks with 62. He led the Big South Conference with a .359 batting average and 58 runs scored, while finishing second with 23 stolen bases.
Liberty received 81 points in being picked to finish the league's regular season in second place. The Flames also garnered two of the 10 first place votes.
In their first season under head coach Scott Jackson in 2017, the Flames ended the year second in the Big South standings with a 16-8 record and posted a 32-23 overall record. Jackson's squad returns 14 players from last year's roster including Artis and 2015 Big South first team utility player Andrew Yacyk.
Winthrop was chosen to finish the year as the conference's top team. The Eagles received six first-place votes and 95 total points in the poll.
After the Flames, High Point was tabbed third with 77 points and one first place vote, edging out 2017 Big South champion Radford, which garnered 76 points and one first place vote.
Campbell was voted fifth with 55 points, followed by Presbyterian with 47 points for sixth. Gardner-Webb with 36 points, Charleston Southern with 35 points, UNC Asheville with 26 points and Longwood with 22 points round out the poll.
The Flames will begin their 24-game Big South Conference slate with a three-game series at Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C., March 16-18. The top eight teams in the final conference standings will move on to the 2018 Big South Baseball Championship at the home of the Flames, Liberty Baseball Stadium, May 23-26.
Liberty opens its 2018 campaign at home for the first time since 2005. The Flames will host VCU for a three-game series, Feb. 16-18. First pitch for the season opener on Feb. 16 is scheduled for 3 p.m.
2018 Big South Preseason Poll Team-First Place Votes-Points 1. Winthrop (6) - 95 2. Liberty (2) - 81 3. High Point (1) - 77 4. Radford (1) - 76 5. Campbell - 55 6. Presbyterian - 47 7. Gardner-Webb - 36 8. Charleston Southern - 35 9. UNC Asheville - 26 10. Longwood – 22 Note: Points are based on a weighted system. First-place votes received 10 points, followed by nine points for second place, and so on.
Preseason Player of the Year: D.J. Artis, Liberty Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Nate Pawelczyk, Winthrop