01/25/04 — Pirates picked 5th in preseason CUSA baseball poll

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Pirates picked 5th in preseason CUSA baseball poll

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 25, 2004 2:00 AM

CHICAGO -- Coming off of its sixth consecutive NCAA appearance and armed with 17 returning lettermen, Tulane has been selected as the preseason favorite in the 2004 Conference USA baseball poll, chosen by the league's 12 head coaches.

East Carolina junior infielder/outfielder Darryl Lawhorn, who has hit 33 home runs in his first two collegiate seasons, is the Preseason C-USA Player of the Year.

Clayton Jerome of TCU, who was named Conference USA Pitcher of the Year last season, was selected to repeat that honor this spring.

Tulane posted a 20-10 record in C-USA in 2003, finishing with an overall mark of 44-19, the second-highest win total in the league. The Green Wave are represented by three players on the preseason all-conference team.

Sophomore LHP J.R. Crowell was the ace of a youthful Tulane pitching staff where freshman produced 30 of the club's 44 victories. Crowel was 8-1 with a 3.40 ERA, tossing two complete games and striking out 73 batters.

Infielder Tommy Manzella earned a spot on the team as did Brian Bogusevic, who is a preseason all-league choice as an outfielder, but is also a valuable pitcher. Manzella hit .343 in 2003, tying for the team high with 20 doubles and ranking second on the club in RBI with 44. Bogusevic's freshman campaign included a .321 average with 10 doubles, four homers and 36 RBI at the plate and three wins and a 3.41 ERA in 34 innings pitched on the mound.

Defending regular season and tournament champion Southern Miss was chosen to finish second. After setting a C-USA record for conference wins (23) and a school record for overall victories (47), the Golden Eagles welcome back 17 letterwinners.

Three of those returnees earned a place on the preseason all-C-USA squad. Closer Austin Tubb received All-American honors after posting 10 saves and a 1.45 ERA in 30 appearances last spring. Infielder Jarrett Hoffpauir and catcher/designated hitter Brad Willcutt also were named as all-league selections. Hoffpauir hit .307 with 13 doubles, 10 home runs and 53 RBI, while Willcutt smacked 20 doubles with 12 round-trippers and 61 RBI, while batting .321.

Houston, coming off its third trip to the NCAA Super Regionals in the last four years, was picked to finish third during the upcoming campaign. The Cougars return six starters and 18 letterwinners from a club that was one win away from Omaha last June. Junior RHP Garrett Mock represents Houston on the preseason team after posting five wins and 66 strikeouts in 15 starts last year.

USF, was picked to finish fourth, while East Carolina was tabbed fifth.

The Bulls are represented on the all-league team by a pair of junior infielders, 3B Jeff Baisley (.355, 18 doubles, 46 RBI) and SS Myron Leslie (.338, 17 doubles and 16 stolen bases) and C Devin Ivany (team-leading .362 average, 18 doubles, 46 RBI).

Lawhorn, who led ECU to its fifth consecutive NCAA appearance last while pacing the team in batting (.332), doubles (15), home runs (14) and RBI (49), is the lone Pirate on the preseason team.