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Gamecocks 28th in baseball preseason poll

The South Carolina baseball team has been ranked No. 28 in the 2010 Collegiate Baseball Preseason Poll released on Monday afternoon. The Gamecocks will open the season on February 19 hosting Duquesne in a three-game series at Carolina Stadium.

Carolina is one of seven SEC teams to be ranked by Collegiate Baseball. LSU ranks No. 2, Florida sits at No. 9, Ole Miss is No. 22, Arkansas is No. 23, Georgia is No. 31 and Vanderbilt is No. 32.

South Carolina returns several position starters and pitchers from last year's NCAA Regional team that finished 40-23 overall along with a 17-13 mark for a second place finish in the SEC Eastern Division.

On the mound, South Carolina junior right-handed pitcher Sam Dyson and senior right-handed pitcher Blake Cooper both tallied nine victories last season. The nine-win total by each pitcher is the second highest win total from last year returning to the Southeastern Conference for the 2010 season. Along with sophomore left-handed pitcher Nolan Belcher, the Gamecocks return the entire rotation from last year's squad. Belcher earned 2009 SEC All-Freshman team honors. Also on the mound returning is senior right-hander Jay Brown, who compiled a 3-0 mark with a 3.35 ERA.

At the plate, senior first baseman Nick Ebert recorded 23 home runs last season, only one player in the nation returns to college that hit more home runs last year. Ebert finished with a .321 average, 23 HR and 72 RBI. Junior outfielder Whit Merrifield returns after batting .340 (91-for-268) in the 2009 season and spending the summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Chatham Anglers. Merrifield's 91 hits are the most hits by a returning SEC player from last year. He had 11 homers and 49 RBI as well.

Sophomore outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. is back after hitting .349 (89-for-255) in his first collegiate season and was a consensus Freshman All-America selection. Bradley also tallied 11 homers and 46 RBI. He played this summer for the Hyannis Mets of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Senior shortstop Bobby Haney returns to the middle infield after starting all 63 games at shortstop last year. Haney earned second team All-SEC honors and was a 2009 SEC All-Defensive team choice. He hit .291 (66-for-227) with four HR and 30 RBI.

Junior utility player Parker Bangs also is back to help the Gamecocks on the mound and at the plate. Bangs hit .328 (39-for-119) with 12 doubles, five HR and 36 RBI. Bangs struck out 39 batters in 33.2 innings pitched in 15 appearances.

Two South Carolina newcomers earned HS All-America honors. Right-hander Ethan Carter was a 2009 Louisville Slugger HS All-American by Collegiate Baseball and was named to the 2009 All-USA baseball second-team by the USA Today. He was also the 2009 Gatorade Virginia Baseball Player of the Year and led Menchville HS to a state championship and a final No. 1 ranking in the nation by Collegiate Baseball and the USA Today. Catcher Brison Celek was a 2009 Louisville Slugger HS All-American by

Collegiate Baseball and is a three-time South Carolina AA All-State selection as well. He twice helped lead Bishop England HS to state championships in 2007 and 2009.

Three South Carolina newcomers decided on college instead of pro baseball. Adrian Morales, a junior college infielder out of Miami Dade CC, was a 45th round choice by the Houston Astros, Colby Holmes, a right-handed pitcher from Conway, S.C., was drafted in the 47th round by the Atlanta Braves and Christian Walker a first baseman/third baseman from Limerick Pa., was a 49th round choice by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Morales was a second-team 2009 All-Southern Conference recipient in the FCCAA along with a 2008 NJCAA All-Gulf District honoree at Miami-Dade CC. Holmes is a two-time South Carolina AAAA All-State team selection and was rated the No. 5 best high school player in the state of South Carolina by Diamond Prospects. He finished the 2009 season with an 8-3 record and a 0.70 ERA with 129 strikeouts in 69.2 innings pitched. Holmes also was rated by Baseball America as the No. 9 best high school prospect at the 2009 Under Armour Preseason Tournament. Walker hit .588 his senior season and was named to the 2009 Philadelphia Inquirer All-S.E. Pennsylvania team. He also won the 2009 International Power Showcase High School Home Run Derby at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Fla. and was rated the No. 1 best high school player in the state of Pennsylvania by PG Crosschecker.

South Carolina owns the longest current streak of NCAA Regional appearances among the 12 SEC schools with 10 straight trips to the tournament dating back to the 2000 season. In that span, Carolina has seven NCAA Super Regional appearances (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007) and three trips to the College World Series (2002, 2003, 2004). South Carolina is one of only seven schools in the nation to make at least seven NCAA Super Regionals in the last 10 years and one of only eight schools in the country to have reached the NCAA Regionals every season in this decade. The program's 10-year total record of 468-201 is the fourth highest win total among NCAA Division I schools.

South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner is entering his 14th season at the helm with the Gamecocks and his 23rd year as a collegiate head coach. Tanner's career record is 975-439-3 (.689) with a 580-266 (.686) mark at South Carolina. The .686 winning percentage is third highest in SEC history.

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