Diamond Dogs Picked To Win West In 2006

Even Ron Polk has been openly optimistic about the prospects for his 2006 Diamond Dogs. Now, the Mississippi State skipper has been echoed by his peers.

The Southeastern Conference baseball coaches have voted Mississippi State to finish first in the Western Division this season. State edged out Louisiana State in both voting points, 54 to 51, and in first-place votes, 5 to 3.

Arkansas also received three first-place votes but totalled 49 points. Alabama got the last vote to finish first and came in fourth overall in the West at 41 points. Mississippi was predicted fifth with 34 points while Auburn came in sixth at 17.

Polk returns seven position starters from the May 2005 lineup, and one of the regular weekend rotation pitchers along with other hurlers who gained plenty of regular- and post-season experience.

Mississippi State was only fourth in the 2005 West standings and 13-16 in SEC play. But the Diamond Dogs, who just slipped into the SEC Tournament as the 8th seed, went unbeaten in Hoover and knocked off the rival Rebels for their second tourney crown this decade. State also took the 2001 league tournament title.

And the coach of that team, Pat McMahon, has a Florida team predicted to both win the SEC East and challenge for national titles. The Gators have been predicted as high as #2 in preseason polls. The Gators return seven position starters and 10 of 14 pitchers.

In the overall conference voting, eight coaches tabbed Florida to win the SEC Championship in 2006. LSU got three championship votes and Arkansas one. Mississippi State's last SEC Championship came in 1989.

Points were compiled on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for each division. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.

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