NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The Saint Louis Billikens were named the preseason favorites to repeat as Atlantic 10 regular-season champions in a poll released by the conference today. The Bills went 41-18 a season ago, clinching the top seed in the A-10 tournament for the first time in school history.
In the poll, Rhode Island finished second and received two first-place votes. Conference newcomer VCU received three first-place votes and rounded out the top three.
Saint Louis returns all but two starters from last season's record-setting squad. The Bills also return all three starters to the weekend rotation, who combined for 20 pitching wins last season.
The Billikens return the senior trio of Alex Kelly, Grant Nelson and Steve Fernandez, who comprised the heart of the SLU lineup in 2012. Kelly led the Bills in most offensive categories, including batting average (.326), slugging percentage (.487), runs scored (43), home runs (8) and RBIs (41). Nelson was tied for the team lead in doubles (14) and Fernandez posted a .799 OPS last season.
On the hill, Collegiate Baseball's A-10 Preseason Pitcher of the Year, Alex Alemann will enter his senior season primed to rewrite the record books. Alemann is currently second in career wins (21) and only needs two more to break the record set by Dave Sever. Alemann is also fourth in career ERA (.3.62) and seventh in career strikeouts (196)
Head coach Darin Hendrickson enters his sixth season for the Bills. Last season, he was named the A-10 Coach of the Year, the first time a SLU coach has won the honor. In his five seasons at Saint Louis, Hendrickson is 157-127, second in all-time wins and fourth in win percentage at SLU. Among active NCAA Division I coaches, Hendrickson ranks tenth in career win percentage at .684 (492-227 in 13 years of coaching in the NCAA).
The Billikens begin the 2013 campaign Feb. 15 in Tulsa, Okla., when they will take on Oral Roberts. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m.