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Carolinas College Baseball Preview

More cold weather is expected to sweep into the Carolinas this weekend as the college baseball season begins. That’s changed the opening-day schedules of many teams. Here’s a look at 10 teams and players to watch (listed alphabetically):

Teams to watch

Appalachian State: The Mountaineers, in their first season in the Sun Belt, are picked to finish last in the league but have five position starters back from last season’s team that went 21-34.

Charlotte: The 49ers were mired in an offseason hazing incident that saw five players dismissed from the team. They’re picked to finish 11th in the 12-team Conference USA.

Clemson: The Tigers are one of six ACC teams ranked in Baseball America’s preseason top 25 (24th).

College of Charleston: The Cougars won the Colonial Athletic Association’s title in their first season in the league and are expected to repeat.

Davidson: The Wildcats, coming off their best season ever (29-19), play for the first time in the Atlantic 10. Davidson is a preseason choice to finish seventh in the league.

East Carolina: The Pirates, expected to contend in the American Athletic Conference, have a tough opening series at fourth-ranked Virginia this weekend.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels, led by junior pitcher Trent Thornton (Ardrey Kell High), are ranked 17th by Baseball America.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks, No. 13 in Baseball America’s poll, hope to get back to College World Series for first time since 2012.

Western Carolina: The Catamounts won the Southern Conference last season with perhaps the league’s top player in first baseman Jacob Hoyle, the league’s preseason player of the year.

Winthrop: The Eagles advanced to last season’s Big South tournament final and are led by Babe Thomas, one of the league’s top catchers.

Players to watch

Will Craig, Soph., 3B, Wake Forest: Freshman all-American last season, hitting .280 with eight homers. Also made seven appearances as a pitcher.

Steven Duggar, Jr., OF, Clemson: A top pro prospect with a strong arm from the outfield, hit .294 with 36 RBIs last season.

Matt Fraudin, Sr., RHP, Gardner-Webb: One of Big South’s top pitchers, has led league in strikeouts two seasons in a row (108 in 2014).

Derek Gallello, Sr., IF, Charlotte: Hit .283 last season and led team with an on-base-percentage of .361.

Jacob Hoyle, Jr., 1B, Western Carolina: Hit .332 with 14 homers last season and 17 sacrifice flies, tied for first on Catamounts’ career list.

Casey Jones, Sr., IF, Elon: Last season’s Southern Conference player of the year (Phoenix is now in Colonial Athletic Association) after hitting .418.

Andrew Knizner, So., IF, N.C. State: Hit .330 as a freshman with 12 multi-RBI games.

Michael Matuella, Jr., RHP, Duke: Expected to be a high draft choice, had a 2.78 ERA last season.

Lee Miller, Jr., OF, Davidson: Led Wildcats last season, hitting .368 with nine homers and 36 RBIs.

Trent Thornton, Jr., RHP, North Carolina: Ardrey Kell High product was 7-4 with 2.73 ERA last season.