USC ~ 7 IN BASEBALL AMERICA PRESEASON TOP 50

Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina baseball team has been ranked No. 7 in the Baseball America Preseason Top 50 announced on Wednesday morning. Under the direction of head coach Ray Tanner, the Gamecocks enter the 2005 season fresh off a 53-17 campaign last year that earned USC its third straight trip to the College World Series. South Carolina returns five position starters from last year's team with each having batted over .300 last year...

All-American candidate Steve Pearce was last year's triple crown winner for the Gamecocks leading the team with a .346 batting average, 21 HR and 70 RBI. Pearce was named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team and was the 2004 Columbia Regional MVP following USC's wins over The Citadel and North Carolina. Pearce had two home runs and four RBI in the first win over the Tar Heels and then went 3-for-4 with another homer as South Carolina clinched its fifth consecutive regional championship. Now in his senior season, Pearce will move from third base to first base for South Carolina this season.

Also returning to the infield is junior shortstop Steven Tolleson, who finished the year with a .316 average as well as four HR and 25 RBI. Tolleson was co-MVP last season at the SEC Tournament in which Carolina earned its first SEC Tournament Title. The junior from Spartanburg, S.C. also provided several clutch hits throughout the year including a two-run game-winning double vs. East Carolina in the NCAA Super Regional.

All three outfielders from the 2004 squad are also back with senior Brendan Winn returning to right field. Winn started all 70 games and was a second team All-SEC selection as a junior batting .305 with 19 HR and 69 RBI. Junior Michael Campbell also started all 70 games putting together a .314 batting average as well as 14 HR and 52 RBI. Junior Davy Gregg returns to center field for Carolina after posting a .325 batting average with 26 RBI and a team-high 14 stolen bases. The three outfielders also combined for 14 assists from the outfield.

Carolina also brings back a deep returning pitching staff with senior right-handed pitcher Aaron Rawl leading the way. Rawl was a NCBWA All-American selection last year and led the Gamecocks in wins with a 13-4 record on the mound in 122 innings pitched, second highest on the 2004 squad. Senior right-handed pitcher Zac McCamie also returns after posting a 7-0 mark with a 3.10 ERA with senior right-handed pitcher Jason Fletcher back as well after going 6-1 with a 3.40 ERA. Senior right-handed pitcher Cliff Donald (2-0, 3.32 ERA) also is in the mix as is sophomore left-handed pitcher Arik Hempy (3-1, 3.27 ERA). South Carolina also returns sophomore left-handed pitcher Forest Beverly and sophomore right-handed pitcher Conor Lalor. Both missed last season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

In addition to the returning players, USC also brings in a talented crop of newcomers ranked ninth in the nation by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. The latest group of newcomers features six players previously selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. Those players include junior infielder Chris Brown, freshman infielder Andrew Crisp, junior infielder/outfielder Joey Friddle, junior infielder Neil Giesler, sophomore right-handed pitcher Jeff Jeffords and junior catcher Cory Vanderhook.

Tulane was ranked first in the Baseball America Preseason Poll. South Carolina will compete against 13 of the Top 50 teams ranked by Baseball America including second ranked LSU, 10 th ranked Georgia, 15 th ranked Florida, 16 th ranked Ole Miss and 17 th ranked Vanderbilt. Also among the top 50 was No. 26 Arkansas, No. 32 Pepperdine, No. 34 Tennessee, No. 36 Clemson, No. 43 Alabama, No. 45 Minnesota and No. 49 Auburn.

South Carolina begins the season on Friday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. when the Gamecocks host Longwood University at Sarge Frye Field. The Gamecocks schedule also features 29 games vs. teams that reached the postseason in the NCAA Regional last year. Carolina will open the SEC season on Friday, Mar. 18 at 7 p.m. when the Gamecocks host 2004 CWS participant Arkansas at Sarge Frye Field.

Over the last five seasons South Carolina has won more games than any other Division I baseball team in the nation with 260 victories. South Carolina has made three consecutive trips to the College World Series (2002, 2003,2004), won two SEC championships (2000, 2002) and earned a SEC Tournament title (2004).

BASEBALL AMERICA TOP 50

Team (2004 record)

1. Tulane (41-21)
2. LSU (46-19)
3. Cal State Fullerton (47-22)
4. Texas (58-15)
5. Miami (50-13)
6. Stanford (46-14)
7. South Carolina (53-17)
8. Washington (39-20)
9. Arizona State (41-18)
10. Georgia (45-23)
11. Baylor (29-31)
12. Arizona (36-27)
13. Texas A&M (42-22)
14. North Carolina (43-21)
15. Florida (43-22)
16. Ole Miss (39-21)
17. Vanderbilt (45-19)
18. Rice (46-14)
19. Georgia Tech (44-21)
20. Notre Dame (51-12)
21. Texas Christian (39-26)
22. Long Beach State (40-21)
23. Oklahoma State (38-24)
24. Oral Roberts (50-11)
25. Winthrop (37-23)
26. Arkansas (45-24)
27. Florida State (45-23)
28. Mississippi State (35-24)
29. College of Charleston (47-16)
30. Southern California (24-31)
31. St. John's (37-23)
32. Pepperdine (30-32)
33. Florida Atlantic (47-17)
34. Tennessee (38-24)
35. Virginia (44-15)
36. Clemson (39-26)
37. Central Florida (47-18)
38. Cal Poly (38-23)
39. Wichita State (49-16)
40. UC Irvine (34-23)
41. Stetson (36-23)
42. Hawaii (31-24)
43. Alabama (29-26)
44. Fresno State (29-29)
45. Minnesota (38-23)
46. Michigan (34-26)
47. Louisiana-Lafayette (34-23)
48. San Diego (35-21)
49. Auburn (32-24)
50. Nebraska (36-23)

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