The Chants had 154 total votes, compared to 152 for the Eagles. Every voter picked Coastal and Winthrop either first or second. Birmingham-Southern was picked third, followed by Charleston Southern, UNC Asheville, Liberty, VMI, High Point and Radford.
Coastal is coming off a tie for second place during the 2003 regular season, but is looking to win its fourth Big South Tournament title in a row. The Chants return Big South First Team member Ryan McGraw (Saginaw, Mich./Nouvel Catholic Central) in the outfield and at the top of the lineup. McGraw needs 67 stolen bases this season to become the nations all-time career stolen base leader. Shortstop Brett Grandstrand (Newcastle, Wash./Liberty) and catcher Chad Oxendine (Rowland, N.C./Avalon Academy) also are returning starters to the squad. Returnees Jeremiah Grove (Los Banos, Calif./Merced J.C.), Patrick Nichols (Chesapeake, Va./Greenbriar Christian Academy), Greg Orsimarsi (Myrtle Beach, S.C./Socastee) and Adam Pernasilici (Tecumseh, Ontario/St. Annes) also figure into Coastals lineup.
Senior righthander Steven Carter (Windsor, Ontario/St. Annes) is Coastals ace. Carter was 11-3 with a 4.06 earned-run-average last season and needs seven wins to pass Scott Sturkie for most wins by a Coastal pitcher. Junior lefthander Jake Hurry (East Moline, Ill./Alleman) and sophomore righthander Mike Costanzo (Springfield, Pa./Archbishop Carroll) also figure into the rotation. Costanzo also will hit, as he had a .318 batting average with eight home runs last season. The bullpen is solid with closer Byron Binda (Stafford, Va./North Stafford) surrounded by returnees Zach Baldwin (Barboursville, W.Va./Cabell Midland), Mike Andreas (Hanover, Pa./Georgia Tech) and Josh Fish (Bostic, N.C./Rutherfordton Spindale).
Coastal opens the 2004 season Feb. 7 against Delaware State at 2 p.m., in Charles Watson Stadium. The Big South Conference opener is March 26 against Birmingham-Southern in Conway, S.C.
BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE PRESEASON BASEBALL POLL
Team (First-Place Votes) Total
1 Coastal Carolina (10) 154
2. Winthrop (8) 152
3. Birmingham-Southern 122
4. Charleston Southern 88
5. UNC Asheville 85
6. Liberty 82
7. VMI 53
8. High Point 44
9. Radford 30