Golden Eagles tabbed third in OVC preseason poll; Henry named preseason all-conference

Golden Eagles tabbed third in OVC preseason poll; Henry named preseason all-conference

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – After its thrilling run to claim the 2009 Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship, the Tennessee Tech baseball team has been picked to finish third in the OVC in 2010.

2009 OVC regular season champion Eastern Illinois was picked as the preseason favorite in a vote of the league’s nine head coaches, with Jacksonville State picked second. Tech received two first-place votes.

“Our league is so good, anybody can win the league. EIU and JSU are the top two teams, but every team in our league is capable of winning our league,” TTU head coach Matt Bragga said. “Our league continues to climb up the RPI, we have a great league and a lot of coaches doing a great job.”

Murray State was picked fourth in the poll, followed by Morehead State, Eastern Kentucky, Southeast Missouri, Austin Peay and UT Martin.

Morehead State senior shortstop Drew Lee and Eastern Kentucky junior third baseman Jayson Langfels were named OVC Preseason Co-Players of the Year while Murray State senior Chris Craycraft and Eastern Illinois junior Josh Mueller were tabbed OVC Preseason Co-Pitchers of the Year.

Tech became the first No. 5 seed to win the OVC Tournament last season, winning all four of its games including two exciting extra inning affairs. It marked the first OVC Tournament title for the program since 2001. Tech’s pitching staff is highlighted by preseason All-OVC pick Lee Henry, who was 9-3 with a 3.43 E.R.A. last year. Henry also had two of Tennessee Tech’s victories at the OVC Tournament.

“Lee is a great guy and we’re happy that he made the preseason all-conference team,” Bragga said. “He’s a great guy to have on your team and on the mound. He’s such a good kid and he’s got great stuff, and he’s such a competitor.”

The offense is led by junior A.J. Kirby-Jones, who set a school record with 20 home runs last season. Kirby-Jones, the MVP of the OVC Tournament, also pitched 49 innings in 2009, recording three wins and three saves.

“AJ is a great player. As long as I’ve been coaching the game I’m not sure that I’ve ever coached anyone better,” Bragga said. “He’s such a great player and he’s got such a level head, and his mentality and approach to the game are just unbelievable.”

The Golden Eagles return six starting position players and 10 pitchers from last years squad, which became the first in Tech history to have back-to-back 30-plus win seasons. But the Golden Eagles also welcome 12 new faces to the program, including eight freshmen and four junior college transfers.

“Even though this is one of the most experienced teams we’ve had, we’ll still have a lot of underclassmen playing huge roles,” Bragga said. “I believe eight of our nine position starters will be juniors, sophomores or freshmen. We also like our pitching depth. We return all but two of our pitchers from last season, and we feel like we had a pretty good pitching staff last year. We’ve got some guys out of the bullpen who should be pretty good.”

The Golden Eagles get the season underway on Feb. 19 with a three-game series at Georgia Southern. Tech’s home opener is scheduled for Feb. 26 when Cleveland State visits Cookeville for a three-game series. In addition to eight weekend series’ against OVC opponents, Tech’s schedule is highlighted by games at Vanderbilt and Tennessee, home-and-home contests with Middle Tennessee, East Tennessee, Belmont, and Lipscomb, and non-conference series’ against Bradley, Buffalo, South Alabama, Memphis, and SIU-Edwardsville.

The league’s top six teams will advance to the 2010 OVC tournament, which will be held in Jackson, Tenn., for the first time, after being played in Paducah, Ky., since 2001. The Event will be played at Pringles Park from May 26-30.

2010 OVC Preseason Predicted Order of Finish
1. Eastern Illinois (3 first-place votes) - 59
2. Jacksonville State (4) - 56
3. Tennessee Tech (2) - 51
4. Murray State - 43
5. Morehead State - 33
6. Eastern Kentucky - 26
7. Southeast Missouri - 25
8. Austin Peay - 22
9. UT Martin - 9

2010 OVC Preseason All-OVC Team
Preseason OVC Co-Player of the Year:
Drew Lee, Morehead State
Preseason OVC Co-Player of the Year:
Jayson Langfels, Eastern Kentucky
Preseason OVC Co-Pitcher of the Year:
Chris Craycraft, Murray State
Preseason OVC Co-Pitcher of the Year:
Josh Mueller, Eastern Illinois

- Jim Klocke, Southeast Missouri
1B - Wes Cunningham, Murray State
2B - Bert Smith, Jacksonville State
SS - Drew Lee, Morehead State
3B - Jayson Langfels, Eastern Kentucky
OF - Daniel Hill, Murray State
OF - J.D. Ashbrook, Morehead State
OF - Daniel Adamson, Jacksonville State
DH - Jason Laws, Murray State
UT - Richie Derbak, Eastern Illinois
SP - Mike Recchia, Eastern Illinois
SP - Chris Craycraft, Murray State
SP - Lee Henry, Tennessee Tech
RP - Bill Henke, Jacksonville State