The Rhode Island baseball team has been picked to finish third in the Atlantic 10 this season, in voting conducted among the conference's head coaches. The Rams - who received two first-place votes - trailed only Saint Louis and VCU, who were the 2015 regular-season and tournament champions, respectively.
Rhody will return 21 players from last year's club, which advanced to the finals of the A-10 championship before falling to eventual Super Regional participant VCU. Leading URI's strong core of returnees is the conference's reigning Pitcher and Rookie of the Year Tyler Wilson, who - along with fellow A-10 All-Conference first teamer Chris Hess - earned Freshman All-America accolades a year ago.
Wilson finished his impressive rookie campaign leading all A-10 starting pitchers in ERA (2.16), runs allowed (24), opposing average (.184), hits allowed per nine innings (5.87) and WHIP (0.96). He posted a 6-3 record, including a complete-game, one-hit shutout at Richmond.
Overall, he recorded nine quality starts, spanned 28 innings without allowing an earned run, reached double-digits in strikeouts twice and allowed a combined three hits in 7.1 innings of work at #2 Florida and #11 North Carolina.
Hess led Rhode Island in hits (59), multiple-hit games (17), triples (6), runs scored (34) and slugging percentage (.481) a year ago, as a redshirt freshman. He also ranked second on the team in on-base percentage (.398) and extra-base hits (16) and was third in stolen bases (10). The North Kingstown, R.I. native ended the season on a 12-game hit streak and reached base at least once in each of URI's last 17 games.
Joining the sophomore standouts as preseason players to watch are senior Steve Moyers and junior Martin Figueroa (formerly Taveras). Wilson, Hess and Moyers were ranked among the conference's top MLB Draft Prospects according to D1Baseball.com, while Hess and Figueroa were on Baseball America's top prospects list. Both websites identified Wilson as the A-10's Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
A three-year weekend starter for the Rams, Moyers ended his junior campaign with arguably the best weekend of his career, tossing a season-high 8.1 innings in a 2-1 victory over Richmond at the A-10 tournament. Two days later, after throwing 119 pitches in the no-decision start against Richmond, he recorded two outs in a relief appearance against VCU en route to earning All-Championship honors. Overall, the East Longmeadow, Mass. owns a career ERA of 2.65 over 217.1 innings pitched.
Figueroa earned All-Conference Second Team accolades a year ago, hitting an impressive .363 in A-10 games. A switch-hitter who played primarily as a DH, but also saw time in the infield and outfield, he led Rhode Island with a .575 slugging percentage and .414 on-base percentage in conference games. Overall, the Elizabeth, N.J. product had 14 multi-hit games, 10 multi-RBI games, 11 doubles, five home runs, one triple and six stolen bases.
Led by reigning A-10 Coach of the Year Raphael Cerrato, Rhode Island opens the 2016 season with a three game set at No. 14 Florida State, beginning on Friday, Feb. 19. The Rams and Seminoles will play at 4 p.m. on opening day, followed by a 2 p.m. game on Saturday and a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.
2016 Atlantic 10 Conference Baseball Poll
Team (first-place votes) - Total Voting Points
1. Saint Louis (7) – 161
2. VCU (4) – 148
3. Rhode Island (2) – 138
4. Richmond – 132
5. George Washington – 116
6. Davidson – 92
7. Saint Joseph's – 91
8. Fordham – 79
George Mason – 79
10. La Salle – 45
11. Dayton – 39
Massachusetts – 39
13. St. Bonaventure –24
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