SU tabbed to win SWAC West

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Southern’s baseball team was picked to win the Western Division of the Southwest Athletic Conference, while Alabama State was chosen to win the East in the league’s preseason voting.

Jackson State’s Charles Tillery was voted Preseason Player of the Year, while Alabama State’s T.J. Renda (Pitcher of the Year) and Emmanuel Marrero (Defensive Preseason Player of the Year) also earned preseason accolades.

The squads were voted by the league’s 10 head coaches and sports information directors. Head coaches and sports information directors were not allowed to vote for players from their respective teams.

Defending Western Division regular-season champion Southern was predicted to repeat with 74 points, including seven first-place votes. Prairie View A&M was tagged second with 72 points and eight first-place votes. Arkansas-Pine Bluff garnered 57 points for third along with five votes for first. Texas Southern (55) and Grambling (32) closed things out.

In the East, Alabama State led with 80 points, including eight first-place votes. Jackson State followed with 78 points and 10 first-place votes, and Alcorn State was third with 58 points. Mississippi Valley State received 39 points and two first-place votes and Alabama A&M rounded out the predictions with 35 points.

Jackson State, the reigning SWAC tournament and Eastern Division champions, had a league-high seven players earn preseason honors with three selected to the first team. Eight of the 10 SWAC schools were represented with at least one preseason selection.

Southern’s Tyler Kirksey and Sean Washington made the team as outfielders.

Tillery (OF, 6-0, 195, Sr., Starkville, Miss.) helped lead JSU to the 2013 SWAC title. He closed out his first season in the league with a .352 batting average, second in the conference. He also led the league in on-base-percentage (.475).

Tillery also led JSU in hits (68), walks (33), runs scored (50) and stolen bases (26). He was named SWAC Newcomer of the Year and voted to the conference second team in the postseason. He was also earned ABCA Regional honors.

Renda (6-0, 200, Jr., Orlando, Fla.) earned ABCA first-team honors after nabbing SWAC Pitcher of the Year league first-team league accolades. He recorded a 9-1 record with a 2.19 ERA.

Renda had a season-opening no-hitter against Chicago State with a career-high 15 strikeouts. Renda led the SWAC in strikeouts, wins and ERA.

Marrero (INF, 6-0, Jr., Caugas, Puerto Rico) finished last season with a .953 fielding percentage to complement 63 putouts. He led ASU with 118 assists and was second on the team in fielding double plays with 14.