MELBOURNE, Fla. – Sunshine State Conference coaches select the Saint Leo University as the preseason number one for the fourth consecutive year. With 94 points and six first-place votes in the poll, the Lions are expected to grab the programs fourth league title.
Defending SSC champions, Palm Beach Atlantic narrowly finished second in the poll with 91 points and the remaining five first-place votes. The University of Tampa follows in third place with 81 points, while Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University holds fourth place with 71 points and Florida Tech sits in fifth with 66 points. Rounding out the SSC preseason poll are Rollins College (54 points), Nova Southeastern University (45 points), Florida Southern College (37 points), Lynn University (28 points), Eckerd College (23 points), and Barry University (15 points).
UT is coming off a 2018 season where it was 28-16 while finishing third in the SSC with a 19-11 league mark. The Spartans return two hitters who notched a .300-plus average along with a pitching staff that posted a 1.80 ERA to go with 257 strikeouts in 315.1 innings pitched.
In 2018, Palm Beach Atlantic [36-8, 26-4] was crowned SSC champion for the first time in program history and earned automatic qualification into the NCAA postseason. Along with the Sailfish, the Eagles of Embry-Riddle [33-15, 20-10] and the Lions of Saint Leo [29-18, 16-14] earned a regional bid. Saint Leo battled to win the South 2 Region tournament, advancing to Super Regionals against the University of Alabama-Huntsville. After defeating Alabama-Huntsville to claim the first Super Regional in program history, SLU went 2-2 at the NCAA finals site, capping a tremendous season among the best teams in the nation.
Saint Leo's trip to the NCAA finals marks the 18th time an SSC school has reached the NCAA Division II finals bracket and the first since Barry represented the league in 2008. In eight appearances at the finals site, Florida Southern won the national championship in 1993 and finished as runner-up in 1987 and 2004. Barry made four appearances in total and claimed a runner up finish in 1998.
First pitch of the 2019 season will be delivered on Friday, February 1st with an array of teams in action from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Honolulu, Hawaii. League play opens up strong on February 15th as 10 teams will be competing for their first conference win. South region tournament play begins May 9th with a host determined following the last week of the season. Metropolitan State University will serve as NCAA finals host for 2019, competition in Denver is slated to begin on May 23rd with a new champion crowned on May 27th.
Below are the full results of the 2019 SSC preseason coaches' poll. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their teams (points: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, first-place votes in parentheses).
|Rank||School (FPV)||Total Points|
|1||Saint Leo (6)||94|
|2||Palm Beach Atlantic (5)||91|