SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Samford baseball team was picked as the SoCon favorite by the media, and the Bulldogs were picked to finish second by the league’s coaches when the SoCon released its preseason polls and All-SoCon teams Thursday.

Samford pitcher Zach Hester was named the SoCon’s Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Hester was joined on the first team preseason All-SoCon team by relief pitcher Carson Cupo, first baseman Sonny DiChiara and second baseman Brooks Carlson. Samford’s second team representatives were pitcher Jesse McCord and shortstop Taylor Garris.

In the media poll, Samford was followed by Wofford, Mercer, UNCG, ETSU, Furman, Western Carolina, VMI and The Citadel. In the coaches poll, Wofford was picked as the preseason favorite, with Samford coming in second. The Bulldogs were followed by Mercer, UNCG, ETSU, Western Carolina, Furman, VMI and The Citadel.

Hester ranked third in the SoCon in earned run average at 2.17 and second in opposing batting average at .216 last season. Hester shared the team lead in wins with a 7-4 mark, and he led the team with 83.0 innings pitched.

Cupo posted a 4-0 record with an impressive 2.04 ERA in 39.2 innings of work during the 2019 season. He recorded 45 strikeouts, while allowing just 11 walks. He held opposing batters to a .219 batting average.

As a freshman in 2019, DiChiara led the team and ranked second in the Southern Conference in home runs with 21, RBI with 55 and slugging percentage at .646. He batted .293 for the season.

Carlson led the team with a .345 batting average last season. He had a team-high 17 doubles, and also amassed two triples, six home runs and 41 RBI. He finished with a slugging percentage of .518.

McCord finished the 2019 season with a record of 6-1. He posted an ERA of 2.88 in 68.2 innings. He recorded 54 strikeouts last season.

Garris batted .257 with 12 doubles last season. He also had two triples, three home runs and he drove in 32 runs.

Samford will open the 2020 season by hosting a three-game series with UNC Asheville, Feb. 14-16. The teams are scheduled to play Friday at 4 p.m. Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. at Joe Lee Griffin Field.

2020 Preseason All-Southern Conference
Preseason Player of the Year
Justice Bigbie, Jr., Western Carolina 

Preseason Pitcher of the Year
Zach Hester, Sr., Samford

First Team
SP       Zach Hester, Samford
SP       Hayes Heinecke, Wofford
RP      Carson Cupo, Samford
C         Jackson Greer, ETSU 
1B       Sonny DiChiara, Samford 
2B       Brooks Carlson, Samford

SS       Matty Brown, Wofford
3B       Justice Bigbie, Western Carolina
OF       Hudson Byorick, Wofford
OF       Collin Davis, Wofford
OF       Daylan Nanny, Western Carolina
DH      Dax Roper, Furman

DH      Le Bassett, Mercer

Second Team
SP       Landon Knack, ETSU
SP       Jesse McCord, Samford
RP      Nathaniel Tate, ETSU

RP      Rasesh Pandya, Wofford
C         Luke Robinson, Western Carolina
1B       Angelo DiSpigna, Mercer
2B       John Dempsey, Wofford
SS       RJ Yeager, Mercer

SS       Taylor Garris, Samford
3B       Caleb Webster, UNCG
OF       Greg Hardison, UNCG
OF       Mike Brown, Wofford

OF       Collin Price, Mercer
DH      Andrew Bullock, Western Carolina

2020 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll
Place  Team (1st-place votes)                 Points

1.         Wofford (5)                                        60
2.         Samford (3)                                      59
3.         Mercer (1)                                          51
T4.       UNCG                                                39
T4.       ETSU                                                 39
6.         Western Carolina                             28
T7.       Furman                                              19
T7.       VMI                                                     19
9.         The Citadel                                       10

2020 Preseason Southern Conference Media Poll
Place  Team (1st-place votes)                 Points

1.         Samford (11)                                    144
2.         Wofford (4)                                        135
3.         Mercer (2)                                          118
4.         UNCG                                                99
5.         ETSU                                                 86
6.         Furman                                              72
7.         Western Carolina                             55
8.         VMI                                                     34
9.         The Citadel                                       22