UAPB predicted to finish third in West

The Arkansas Pine-Bluff baseball team is picked to finish third in the Western Division, the Southwestern Athletic Conference announced on Monday.

“I was kind of disappointed by that,” UAPB head coach Carlos James said. “Most of the professionals, the baseball writers in the magazines picked us to finish first and for our conference to pick us third …

“I’d be lying to say if I said I’m satisfied with that. That our team is satisfied with that.”

UAPB was picked to finish first in the SWAC West by Collegiate Baseball and by Perfect Game magazine.

“It is all preseason and we have to earn it, and in the end is what really counts,” James said.

James said after being picked first by the two magazines and then third by the conference, it has been “kind of a motivating factor for our team.”

Alabama State (Eastern) and Southern (Western) were selected to capture their respective divisions. For the Eastern Division, Alabama State led the group with 80 points including eight first-place votes.

Defending Western Division regular season champion Southern was predicted to repeat with 74 points including seven first-place votes. Prairie View A&M was tagged second with 72 points and eight first-place votes.

UAPB garnered 57 points for third along with five votes for first. UAPB finished last season with a 21-32 overall record and 13-11 in the SWAC.

“We have to go out and prove our worth on the field,” James said. “Definitely going to use it to motivate us further throughout the year.

“I think we work hard enough and if we had been at least picked second that would have been good.”

Returning SWAC Player of the Year, Isias Alcantar, was named first team All-SWAC. Last year, Alcantar had batting average of .345, with six home runs and 44 RBIs. He had an on-base percentage of .421 with a slugging percentage of .495.

“We return the top pitching staff in the conference and only one guy gets nominated,” James said. “There again, it only gives us more motivation and adds fuel to the fire.”

Jim Ploeger was named preseason second team All-SWAC. Ploeger had a 4.11 ERA last year and a record of 5-4 in 13 appearances. He threw two complete games and allowed 43 runs (33 earned) with 23 walks and 65 strikeouts. Opponents had a .268 batting average against him.

Reigning SWAC baseball tournament and Eastern Division champion Jackson State posted a league-high seven players earning preseason honors with three selected to the first team.