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Jan. 27, 2010

Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina baseball team has been ranked No. 10 in the Baseball America Preseason Top 25 released on Wednesday afternoon. The Gamecocks will open the season on Friday, Feb. 19 hosting Duquesne in a three-game series at Carolina Stadium.

Carolina is one of six SEC teams to be ranked by Baseball America. LSU ranks No. 3, Florida sits at No. 7, Arkansas is No. 17, Georgia is No. 22 and Ole Miss is No. 24.

South Carolina returns several position starters and pitchers from last year’s NCAA Regional team that finished 40-23 overall along with a 17-13 mark for a second place finish in the SEC Eastern Division.

On the mound, South Carolina junior right-handed pitcher Sam Dyson and senior right-handed pitcher Blake Cooper both tallied nine victories last season. The nine-win total by each pitcher is the second highest win total from last year returning to the Southeastern Conference for the 2010 season. Along with sophomore left-handed pitcher Nolan Belcher, the Gamecocks return the entire rotation from last year’s squad. Belcher earned 2009 SEC All-Freshman team honors. Also on the mound returning is senior right-hander Jay Brown, who compiled a 3-0 mark with a 3.35 ERA.

At the plate, senior first baseman Nick Ebert recorded 23 home runs last season, only one player in the nation returns to college that hit more home runs last year. Ebert finished with a .321 average, 23 HR and 72 RBI. Junior outfielder Whit Merrifield returns after batting .340 (91-for-268) in the 2009 season and spending the summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Chatham Anglers. Merrifield’s 91 hits are the most hits by a returning SEC player from last year. He had 11 homers and 49 RBI as well.

Sophomore outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. is back after hitting .349 (89-for-255) in his first collegiate season and was a consensus Freshman All-America selection. Bradley also tallied 11 homers and 46 RBI. He played this summer for the Hyannis Mets of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Senior shortstop Bobby Haney returns to the middle infield after starting all 63 games at shortstop last year. Haney earned second-team All-SEC honors and was a 2009 SEC All-Defensive team choice. He hit .291 (66-for-227) with four HR and 30 RBI.

Junior utility player Parker Bangs also is back to help the Gamecocks on the mound and at the plate. Bangs hit .328 (39-for-119) with 12 doubles, five HR and 36 RBI. Bangs struck out 39 batters in 33.2 innings pitched in 15 appearances.

South Carolina owns the longest current streak of NCAA Regional appearances among the 12 SEC schools with 10 straight trips to the tournament dating back to the 2000 season. In that span, Carolina has seven NCAA Super Regional appearances (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007) and three trips to the College World Series (2002, 2003, 2004). South Carolina is one of only seven schools in the nation to make at least seven NCAA Super Regionals in the last 10 years and one of only eight schools in the country to have reached the NCAA Regionals every season in this decade. The program’s 10-year total record of 468-201 is the fourth highest win total among NCAA Division I schools.

South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner is entering his 14th season at the helm with the Gamecocks and his 23rd year as a collegiate head coach. Tanner’s career record is 975-439-3 (.689) with a 580-266 (.686) mark at South Carolina. The .686 winning percentage is third highest in SEC history.

Baseball America Preseason Top 25
Team 2009 Record1. Texas 50-162. Virginia 49-153. Louisiana State 56-174. Cal State Fullerton 47-165. Rice 43-186. Georgia Tech 38-197. Florida 42-228. UC Irvine 45-159. Florida State 45-1810. South Carolina 40-2311. Texas Christian 40-1812. Coastal Carolina47-1313. Louisville 47-1814. Arizona State 51-1315. Clemson 44-2916. Miami 38-2217. Arkansas 41-2418. East Carolina 46-2019. San Diego 29-2520. North Carolina 48-1821. Southern Mississippi 40-2622. Georgia 38-2223. UCLA 27-2924. Mississippi 44-2025. Oregon State 37-19