The North Georgia College & State University baseball team has been picked to finish fifth according to the Peach Belt Conference preseason poll of the league’s coaches, released on Friday afternoon.
Georgia College earns the top spot in the poll after claiming the PBC Championship a year ago and making a run to the Division II College World Series. Columbus State is picked to finish second in the league.
Francis Marion rounds out the top three, while USC Aiken is fourth and North Georgia is fifth.
The Saints enter the season ranked 35th in the country by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, one of five Peach Belt Conference teams to earn a preseason ranking, more than any other league in the country.
Four starters return for the Saints, including North Georgia’s all-time home run leader Chad Sage, a Chestatee High graduate, who returns to left field after hitting 13 home runs a year ago.
First-team Peach Belt All-Conference performer Jordan Erisman, who hit .345 a year ago with 14 doubles, six triples and five home runs, enters the 2011 season on a 21-game hitting streak and has been tabbed as a preseason All-American by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Coach Tom Cantrell returns for his 12th season at the helm of the Saints. He has posted 441 wins during his first 11 years at the head of the program.
The Saints open the 2011 season with 14 of their first 17 games at home, including series against Mars Hill, Stillman College and Millersville University the first three weeks of February.
Peach Belt Conference play is set to start Feb. 26 against UNC Pembroke and will conclude with the PBC Tournament May 8-12 at Golden Park in Columbus. The top four teams in each division will advance to the tournament, which has moved from single-elimination to a double-elimination format this season.