Oberacker selected OVC preseason Player of the Year; Tech sits at third in preseason polls
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Tech senior and four-team All-American outfielder Chad Oberacker was named OVC Preseason Player of the Year while the Tech baseball program was tabbed at the three-spot in the pre-season polls, as announced by the Ohio Valley Conference.
In all, 14 players were selected to the Preseason All-OVC team. The 14 players represented seven of the nine teams who will compete for the OVC championship this season. Southeast Missouri led the way with six selections while UT Martin (3) was the only other team with multiple picks. Returning players who were first-team selections at the end of last season were automatic picks for this year's team.
The overall voting in the preseason poll was close as three different teams received first-place votes and those teams were separated in the poll by just five total points. Jax State claimed four first-place votes and 59 total points to be picked as the favorites. Southeast Missouri finished next with three first-place votes and 55 points while Tennessee Tech, last year's regular season champions, were third with two first-place votes and 54 points. Eastern Illinois was picked fourth (36) and was followed by Eastern Kentucky (33), Murray State (28), Austin Peay (25), Morehead State (19) and UT Martin (10).
"We're really excited for this season, we understand our goals for this season, and are really looking to focus on achieving them," said head coach Matt Bragga.
Tennessee Tech is one of just two OVC schools that has won 30 or more games in each of the past three years (JSU being the other). Coming off the 2009 OVC Tournament Championship, the Golden Eagles began last season 0-5 in OVC play before running off 11-straight Conference victories and winning 14 of its final 15 OVC games to win its first regular season title since 1997. Despite not winning its second-straight tournament title, coach Matt Bragga's team did advance to the championship round for the second-straight season before falling to Jax State.
Gone from last year's squad is five-team All-American A.J. Kirby-Jones, right-handed pitcher Stephen Pryor and last season's OVC Pitcher of the Year, Lee Henry. Kirby-Jones tied the OVC single-season record in 2010 with 26 home runs (one off the national lead) before being drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the ninth round of the MLB Draft. Pryor was also drafted as a junior following last season by the Seattle Mariners, while Lee Henry graduated and has signed with the Pensacola Pelicans of the American Association.
The team does, however, return Oberacker, the Preseason OVC Player of the Year, who is the only returning All-American from the OVC last season. Despite being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 19th round, the outfielder decided to return to school for one more season. Last year he was third nationally with a .452 batting average while setting OVC single-season records for hits (108) and doubles (29).
Oberacker has already been named to three pre-season All America team's this season, by College Baseball Lineup (first team), Louisville Slugger (second team) and the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association (NCBWA, third team). The senior out of Erie, PA., batted in the clean-up position, consistently hitting over .400 for the entire season. He finished fourth in the nation in total hits - 40 of which were for extra bases. His career batting average of .395 takes top honors in Tech history.
Throughout last season he maintained an on-base percentage of .527 and slugged .690, batting in 70 runs and becoming just the fourth athlete in Tech history to bring in over 60 runs in one season, earning him the three spot in Tech record books. He set single season records in 2010 for hits and doubles with 29, which ranks first in the OVC, and he ranks second in Tech's single season history in total bases with 165.
"Chad certainly deserves every honor that comes his way," Bragga said of the returning slugger. "Not only is he a great guy, but he's a very good student and a tremendous baseball player. We're just very happy for him and excited to have him as a part of our program."
The Golden Eagle squad will kick off their season at the Coastal Carolina Tournament on February 19 with games against Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina.