SAINT LEO, Fla. - The Saint Leo University baseball team was ranked seventh in the 2009 Sunshine State Conference Pre-Season Poll released on Wednesday morning.  Defending South Region and SSC Champion Tampa was tabbed the preseason favorite to again win the SSC baseball title.

Saint Leo totaled 44 points in the pre-season poll, and was picked to finish in the same spot the Lions concluded 2008.  SLU had a 30-22 overall record a season ago, and a 9-13 record in the SSC, which saw them finish in the bottom-half of conference.  

Saint Leo returns seven starters for the 2009 season, including All-Conference and All-Region selection Jonathan Duncan as well as outfielder Kyle Hobbs and shortstop Bobby Munoz.  The trio of returners will take to the Thomas B. Southard Stadium diamond led by new head coach Russ McNickle, who begins his first season in the Green & Gold after stints as assistant coach at both Mississippi State and conference rival Florida Southern.

The University of Tampa collected a total of 127 points in the SSC preseason poll, which was conducted among the league's baseball coaches and sports information directors.  The Spartans claimed 15 of 16 possible first-place votes, as each institution's representatives are not permitted to rank their own squad.

Florida Southern came in second in the poll, garnering 112 points and two first-place votes. Lynn appeared at third, followed closely by Florida Tech and Barry, which were tabbed fourth and fifth, respectively.

Nova Southeastern is slated to finish sixth with the Lions in seventh. Rollins and Eckerd rounded out the poll.

The Lions’ uphill battle will begin when they open their 2009 schedule on the road versus Nova Southeastern in a non-conference series starting Friday, February 6 at 6:00 p.m.  Saint Leo will play away from home for the first four games of the season before their home opener on Thursday, February 12 against Eckerd. 

Saint Leo will open its SSC schedule in Winter Park against Rollins College on Friday, February 20 with game one of the three-game series starting at 7:00 p.m.

Place - Team, Points (1st Place Votes)
1 - Tampa, 127 (15)
2 - Florida Southern, 112 (2)
3 - Lynn, 87
4 - Florida Tech, 82
5 - Barry, 81 (1)
6 - Nova Southeastern, 65
7 - Saint Leo, 44
8 - Rollins, 34
9 - Eckerd, 16