Baseball Picked 4th in Atlantic Sun Preseason Polls

Jan. 21, 2004

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville University, which won the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship in 2003 and advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the third time in the last five seasons, has been picked fourth in both the 2004 Atlantic Sun Coaches and Media Preseason Baseball Polls, as released by the conference office today. Florida Atlantic was picked to win the league in both polls.

"We are optimistic about our chances this season," said head coach Terry Alexander, who is entering his 14th season with the Dolphins and is first all-time at JU with 442 wins. "We know we have one of the strongest leagues in the nation, but we have the players and the coaches to build on last season's accomplishments."

Senior third baseman Orlando Diaz (Downers Grove, Ill.) and sophomore first baseman Gordie Gronkowski (Buffalo, N.Y.) were voted to the A-Sun Preseason All-Conference Team. Diaz batted .289, with 11 doubles, eight home runs and 30 RBI in 58 starts in 2003, while Gronkowski earned Atlantic Sun Freshman-of-the-Year and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America honors after batting .366 with 13 doubles, six home runs and a team-best 40 RBI. Gronkowski also earned A-Sun Tournament MVP honors after batting .500 with four doubles, five RBI and a .722 slugging percentage as JU became just the second No. 6 seed to capture the tournament title.

Florida Atlantic, which captured the A-Sun regular season title in 2003, returns three A-Sun Preseason All-Conference players in senior pitcher Randy Beam, junior second baseman Derek Hutton and Preseason Player of the Year, junior outfielder Jeff Fiorentino. Stetson, which lost to JU in the conference tournament final last season, was chosen second in both polls, while UCF was chosen third in both polls.

JU returns 12 starters from last season's championship squad, which went 32-30 and won 21 of its last 33 games. The Dolphins return eight position players, including Diaz and Gronkowski, and four pitchers, led by junior hurlers Dennis Robinson (Putnam Valley, N.Y.) and Josh Deel (Jacksonville, Fla.). Robinson went 6-7 with a 4.74 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 87.1 innings, while earning A-Sun All-Tournament Team honors after posting a 2-0 record with a 0.63 ERA in the conference tournament. Deel tied for the team lead with four saves, while compiling a 4-5 record with a 4.65 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 50.1 innings.

The Dolphins open the season on the road at Bethune-Cookman on Feb. 7 at 1 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach.

2004 Atlantic Sun Baseball Preseason Polls

Media Poll (1st Place Votes) Team Points 1. Florida Atlantic 198 (12) 2. Stetson 177 (4) 3. UCF 147 4. Jacksonville 146 5. Belmont 126 6. Gardner-Webb 109 7. Troy State 98 8. Georgia State 80 9. Campbell 77 10. Mercer 55 11. Lipscomb 35

Predicted Tournament Champion: Florida Atlantic (6)

Coaches Poll (1st Place Votes) Team Points 1. Florida Atlantic 137 (8) 2. Stetson 111 (1) 3. UCF 108 (1) 4. Jacksonville 105 (1) 5. Belmont 91 6. Troy State 68 7. Gardner-Webb 67 8. Georgia State 55 9. Campbell 49 10. Mercer 39 11. Lipscomb 28

Predicted Tournament Champion: Florida Atlantic (5)

Preseason All-Conference Team SP Randy Beam Florida Atlantic SP Cy McCuen Stetson SP Erik Wikstrom Troy State RP Will Tucker Belmont C Jason Warpool Belmont 1B Dan Soukup Belmont 2B Derek Hutton Florida Atlantic 3B Orlando Diaz Jacksonville SS Tom Rispoli Campbell OF Jeff Fiorentino Florida Atlantic OF Clay Timpner UCF OF David Futrelle Gardner-Webb DH Gordie Gronkowski Jacksonville

Preseason Player of the Year: Jeff Fiorentino, Florida Atlantic