10. FRANCIS MARION PATRIOTS (40-18)
Final 2012 Ranking: 6
The Patriots were an enigmatic crew last season. FMU started the season as the top ranked team but quickly tumbled out of the top ten and almost out of the rankings entirely after starting the year with an unimpressive 8-7 record. Nevertheless, Coach Inabinet’s team rebounded from their fugue state to reach the championship game of the Southeast Regional where they were ultimately stymied by Catawaba. It was the third consecutive season the Pats fell a game short of reaching Cary. The 2013 edition of the Pats will be similar last year’s club. Missing will be recent Baltimore Oriole signee Buddy Sosnoskie who led the team in hitting and tweeting, however most of the pieces are in place for another shot at making the trip to Cary.
Like many top teams, FMU’s title hopes rest on the arms of their pitching staff, which for the Patriots, is a good thing. Ace Spencer Jordan is a Tino Martinez Award candidate after compiling a 10-4 record last season with a 2.97 ERA. He also impressively fanned 95 batters in 97 innings while only walking 29 batters. Also back in the rotation will be Gary Ashcraft who had a perfect 6-0 record and 3.27 ERA. Despite moving into the closer role late in the season Jeffery Stoner was able to amass nine saves while fanning 88 batters in 83.1 innings. If a hurler like Don Sandifer, who went 11-3 and won 2011 Peach Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2011, can elevate their game the Pats could easily find themselves in the Southeast Regional once again.
FMU’s lineup is made up of solid, dependable batters; none of which exactly strike fear in opposition, but everyone of which is capable to deliver a crucial hit to win a ballgame. OF Jarrod Reed and SS Michael Wilson are the top returning position players to the FMU offense. Reed batted .333 and once had MLB journeyman Orlando Hudson use his tar at practice which is always good for a couple of extra wins. Wilson hit .318 as the Pats leadoff man and tied for the club lead in runs. 3B Stephen Tarkenton was the hero in FMU’s win over two-time reigning DI national champ South Carolina and batted .294 last season with double digit doubles and 37 RBI. A pair of potential productive bats are transfers Jacob Watson and Isaac Davenport. Watson is a second basemen from NJCAA power Louisburg College and helped the Hurricanes to a 47-7 record last season. Davenport comes to Florence via Chattanooga State Community College where he batted .344 and stole 18 bases in 46 games.