Feb. 13, 2009

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Western Kentucky Picked to Win Sun Belt Conference

Soignier, Ridings Earn Individual Honors


Western Kentucky claimed the top spot in the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Poll, in voting by the league’s 11 head coaches and released by the conference office.


The Hilltoppers received nine first-place votes and 119 points. WKU was 33-27 a season ago, including 16-14 in the Sun Belt. The Hilltoppers won the 2008 conference tournament and return eight position starters and nine pitchers. WKU’s Matt Ridings was named the league’s Preseason Pitcher of the Year. He was 10-3 a season ago in 15 starts with a 3.88 ERA. He fanned 98 in 97.1 innings. Outfielder Chad Cregar (left) and third baseman Wade Gaynor joined Ridings on the preseason all-conference team.


Troy placed second with 100 points. The Trojans have 11 pitchers and seven position starters back from a squad that was 33-27 last year with a 16-14 conference mark.


ULM, with Preseason Player of the Year Ben Soignier, came in third with 84 points. The Warhawks were 34-24 in 2008 and claimed the regular-season crown in the Sun Belt with a 20-10 league record. Soignier batted .394 a year ago with 21 doubles, 16 home runs and 46 RBI. He set school records with 83 runs, 93 hits and 166 total bases.


New Orleans received one first-place vote and 79 points for fourth place. The Privateers were 43-21 last season and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.


Louisiana-Lafayette also earned a first-place vote and 78 points to hold down the fifth spot. The Ragin’ Cajuns were 30-29 a season ago with a 16-14 league mark. ULL returns six position starters and a pair of starting pitchers.


Florida Atlantic came in sixth, followed by South Alabama, Middle Tennessee, FIU, Arkansas State and UALR.


All 11 conference teams start the season on Feb. 20. The Sun Belt Tournament will be held May 20-23 in Troy, Ala. The Sun Belt has sent multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament each season since 1988, a feat matched by only four other conferences.

Sun Belt Preseason Poll

1. WKU (9) 119
2. Troy 100
3. ULM 84
4. New Orleans (1) 79
5. Louisiana-Lafayette (1) 78
6. Florida Atlantic 66
7. South Alabama 64
8. Middle Tennessee 55
9. FIU 42
10. Arkansas State 22
11. UALR 17

Preseason All-Sun Belt Team

SP - Chase Ware, Arkansas State

SP - Matt Ridings, Western Kentucky
RP - Justin Robichaux, Louisiana-Lafayette

RP - Josh Storm, Troy
C - David Doss, South Alabama
1B - Tyler Townsend, FIU
2B - Ryan Mollica, FIU
SS - Ben Soignier, ULM
3B - Wade Gaynor, Western Kentucky
OF - Bryce Brentz, Middle Tennessee

OF - Nathan Hines, Middle Tennessee

OF - Chad Cregar, Western Kentucky
DH - Scott Hawkins, Louisiana-Lafayette

Preseason Player of the Year - Ben Soignier, ULM
Preseason Pitcher of the Year - Matt Ridings, Western Kentucky


(photo courtesy of WKU Media Relations Office)