WILMINGTON, N.C. (UNCWSports.com) – Junior Alex Royalty and Ryan Jeffers were named preseason all-conference and UNCW was picked by the Colonial Athletic Association coaches as the preseason favorite to win the conference title the league announced on Thursday.
The Seahawks received six first-place votes while defending conference champion Delaware was second with three votes. The College of Charleston, Northeastern, Elon and William & Mary rounded out the preseason top-six.
“It’s an honor to be picked first in the preseason,” said UNCW Head Coach Mark Scalf, who begins his 27th season at the helm in 2018. “We have 17 newcomers in the program and we’re looking forward to taking the field and getting better with each outing.”
UNCW and the Blue Hens played in the 2017 conference championship where UD topped the Seahawks for its first CAA baseball championship. It was UNCW’s third consecutive championship round appearances.
Royalty, who was a first-team All-CAA selection in 2017, went 9-2 as a sophomore and was named the league’s Pitcher-of-the-Year. The righthander posted a 3.20 ERA and led the conference in wins, innings pitched (98.1) and strikeouts (106). In conference play, Royalty went 5-1 and struck out 61 in 53.2 innings.
Jeffers, a catcher, was named first-team All-CAA as a sophomore after leading the Seahawks with a career-best .328 batting average. Jeffers hit 10 home runs and knocked in 32 runs while crossing the plate 44 times.
Fellow junior Clark Cota was an honorable mention selection after pacing the Seahawk bullpen with four saves in 2017. Cota struck out 28 in 26.1 innings and limited opponents to a meager .156 batting average.
James Madison, Hofstra and Towson were picked seventh through ninth in coaches preseason order of finish.
UNCW opens its 27th season under the direction of Scalf on Feb. 16 against Eastern Kentucky on the first day of the Hughes Bros. Challenge.