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  • Baseball Cats picked 7th in SEC East; TJ Collett Named Coaches Preseason All-SEC

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Feb. 11, 2021)-----The University of Florida has been predicted to win the 2021 Southeastern Conference baseball championship as voted by the league’s 14 head coaches in the annual preseason poll released Thursday. The Preseason All-SEC First and Second Teams, as determined by the head coaches, were also announced.

    Florida garnered 12 first place votes, while Mississippi State and Vanderbilt each had one. The Gators were predicted to win the SEC Eastern Division, while Ole Miss was the favorite to win the SEC Western Division.

    Since 1996, the SEC has named a regular season champion as well as a tournament champion. Prior to 1996, the tournament champion was considered the SEC champion.

    Points were compiled on a descending basis for each division. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team, and each coach also voted for one team as an overall conference champion.

    For the seventh consecutive year, two Preseason All-SEC Teams were selected by the SEC head coaches. Eleven schools were represented on the All-SEC teams with Arkansas and Florida leading the way with four selections. Mississippi State garnered three selections, while Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt had two. Arkansas claimed an SEC-best four first-team accolades.

    The 2021 regular season for SEC teams begins Feb. 19, with conference play set to begin March 19.

    Eleven SEC teams have been ranked in the top-25 of the preseason college baseball polls.

    2021 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason Poll

    Eastern Division
    1. Florida (13) – 91
    2. Vanderbilt (1) – 79
    3. Tennessee – 58
    4. South Carolina – 55
    5. Georgia – 51
    6. Missouri – 28
    7. Kentucky – 23

    Western Division
    1. Ole Miss (7) – 78
    2. Mississippi State (3) – 73
    3. Arkansas (2) – 72
    4. LSU (2) – 63
    5. Texas A&M – 36
    6. Auburn – 32
    7. Alabama – 31

    () – First place votes

    SEC Champion: Florida (12), Mississippi State (1), Vanderbilt (1)

    2021 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason All-SEC Team

    First Team
    C: Casey Opitz, Arkansas
    1B: T.J. Collett, Kentucky
    2B: Robert Moore, Arkansas
    3B: Rankin Woley, Auburn
    SS: Ryan Bliss, Auburn
    OF: Jud Fabian, Florida
    OF: Christian Franklin, Arkansas
    OF: Tanner Allen, Mississippi State
    DH/UTL: Matt Goodheart, Arkansas
    SP: Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt
    SP: Connor Prielipp, Alabama
    RP: Devin Fontenot, LSU

    Second Team
    C: Hayden Dunhurst, Ole Miss
    1B: Josh Hatcher, Mississippi State
    2B: Max Ferguson, Tennessee
    3B: Tim Elko, Ole Miss
    SS: Josh Rivera, Florida
    OF: Rowdey Jordan, Mississippi State
    OF: Owen Diodati, Alabama
    OF: Cade Beloso, LSU
    DH/UTL: Wes Clarke, South Carolina
    SP: Jack Leiter, Vanderbilt
    SP: Tommy Mace, Florida
    RP: Ben Specht, Florida

    LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky baseball senior first baseman T.J. Collett was voted First-Team Preseason All-Southeastern Conference by the league’s coaches, it was announced on Thursday.

    Previously, Collett was named First-Team Preseason All-America by Perfect Game, where he earned a spot as the designated hitter. Hailed for his prodigious left-handed power at the plate, the Terre Haute, Indiana native he has slugged 26 career home runs, including back-to-back seasons with 10 in both 2018 and 2019, and is poised to join the school’s career top 10 home run list with eight more in 2020. He is the SEC’s active leader in home runs.

    “Double digit home run hitters in the SEC don’t grow on trees and Collett has 26 big flies to his name in a little over two full years playing,” Perfect Game wrote. “Collett returns for his fourth year in Lexington and should be a fixture right in the middle of Kentucky’s lineup with the potential to go deep on any swing that he takes. He’s a first base/designated hitter type of slugger whose value is going to be derived from his bat. Collett takes big hacks from the left side of the dish with the potential to go deep to any part of the ballpark and should be in store for another 10+ home run year.”

    In the abbreviated 2020 season, Collett started all 17 games at first base, batting .290 with 10 extra-base hits in just 69 at-bats. He drove in 17 runs and was named both Southeastern Conference and National Player of the Week after driving in 13 runs in five games during the final full week of the season, including his first career two-homer game.

    In 2019, the lefty blasted 10 home runs and drove in a team-high 40 runs while delivering 12 multi-hit and 10 multi-RBI games. He was named SEC Player of the Week after hitting the game-winning home run in both games of a doubleheader at No. 10 Ole Miss and also became the first player to clear the fences in Kentucky Proud Park with a blast in the stadium’s inaugural game.

    In 2018, Collett was a force in the middle of the lineup before a hip injury prematurely ended his season. In 34 games he batted .304 with 27 runs, four doubles, 10 home runs and 34 RBI and was named National Player of the Week after homering in four consecutive games, the first UK player to do that since All-American Sawyer Carroll in 2008. He had a 13-game hitting streak, a 17-game reached base streak and delivered one of the most memorable moments of the season when he hit a blast into the second deck at Minute Maid Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros.

    Off the field, Collett has been even more accomplished. He was honored as UK Athletics’ 2020 Mr. Wildcat and the 2020 SEC Brad Davis Community Service Award winner for his work in the community. He also has been inducted into UK’s prestigious Frank G. Ham Society of Character, is a two-time member of the SEC Community Service Team and four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.