FLORENCE, S.C. – On the heels of a season that saw the Francis Marion University baseball team equal the school record for wins and capture the Peach Belt Conference regular-season championship, the Patriots learned on Thursday (Dec. 22) that they are ranked first in the 2012 College Baseball Lineup preseason NCAA Division II Top 30 poll. Also released on Thursday, FMU is ranked second in the 2012 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason Top 40 poll.
The No. 1 ranking is a first for the Patriot program. Prior to Thursday, the highest Francis Marion had ever been ranked was second in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll on March 1, 2010.
The baseball program becomes the fourth FMU sport to ascend to the No. 1 position in a national poll, joining the men’s soccer program in 2000 and the women’s basketball and softball squads during the 1980’s.
Francis Marion ended the 2011 campaign with a 41-16 record and received its third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid, reaching the regional title game for the second year in a row.
Head coach Art Inabinet welcomes back 15 letterwinners, including six position starters and six members of the pitching staff. Among the returnees are the Peach Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and Co-Player of the Year.
“This ranking is nice recognition for the accomplishments of our players, coaches, and staff,” Inabinet said. “It shines positively on our university. All that being said, it is nice to be ranked No. 1 at the beginning of the season, but our goal is to finish the season in the top spot.”
Seven opponents on the Patriots’ 2012 schedule are nationally ranked to start the season according to the two polls. In addition, the Patriots will meet second-ranked and two-time defending Division I national champion University of South Carolina on April 11.
FMU opens its 2012 season on Feb. 4 with a home contest against Limestone College.
The defending Division II national champion, University of West Florida (52-9), sits atop the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll, only 32 points ahead of Francis Marion.