Camels Ranked No. 1 In Big South Preseason Poll

Campbell’s Matthew Barefoot has been named the preseason player of the year. Photo by Bennett Scarborough

Dunn Native Matthew Barefoot Named Preseason Player Of The Year

Buies Creek — Defending Big South regular season and tournament champion Campbell was picked as the preseason favorite to win the 2019 baseball title. The reigning league batting champion Matthew Barefoot was named the preseason player of the year, as voted on by the conference head coaches.

Barefoot is the third Camel to receive a preseason distinction from the Big South, joining Michael Felton who was named preseason co-player of the year prior to the 2013 season and Ryan Thompson who was named the 2014 preseason pitcher of the year.

“Preseason player of the year is a solid recognition for Matt,” head coach Justin Haire said. “In my opinion, he was the best player in our conference last year, so for others in the Big South to vote on this, it shows the level of respect they have for the type of player he is.”

A Dunn, N.C., native, Barefoot claimed the Big South batting crown last season with a .364 average, while also leading the conference in hits (79), doubles (18), steals (33) and on-base percentage (.484). He also ranked sixth in the nation with 23 hit-by-pitches.

Barefoot dominated postseason play, hitting .517 across the Big South tournament and the NCAA Athens regional. His performance in the Big South tournament earned him MVP honors; he batted .526 across five games, slashing five doubles while also scoring seven runs. In the regional opener at No. 8 Georgia, he batted 3-for-5 with three RBI and a two-run home run.

A 2018 first team All-Big South selection, Barefoot was also named to the ABCA/Rawlings All-Atlantic Region second team last season. In September 2018, he was named the No. 128 professional baseball prospect D1Baseball’s Top 150 Prospects list.

“Matt is a young man who does three things really well for us: he has a good attention to detail, he has a tremendous work ethic, and he loves his teammates. That is what makes him a very good leader, as well as a special person and player.”

Over the summer, Barefoot played in the Cape Cod Baseball League for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks and was crowned the league’s batting champion with a clip of .379, besting players from South Carolina, Virginia, Vanderbilt, among others. Barefoot was also honored as the Cape Cod MVP, as he finished the league leader in hits (53) and on-base percentage (.474).

Campbell received six first-place votes, collecting 86 total points, to garner the top spot for the first time since 1986. High Point was voted to finish second, collecting 85 points with two first-place votes. Winthrop and Radford came in a tie for third place, each receiving 80 points with one first-place vote apiece.

“Being picked as the preseason favorite is a nice compliment to where others see our program heading,” Haire said. “Last season, we were picked fifth, and won it, so in all reality we still have to go out and play the games, fight injuries, and compete every day.”

Campbell had eight all-conference honorees a year ago, the most since 2013, and racked up 21 wins, a program-record in conference play. In addition, the Camels return five starters from last season’s championship squad that made CU’s third appearance in the NCAA Tournament after sweeping the Big South regular season and tournament titles for the first time in program history.

The Camels, led by 2018 Big South Coach of the Year Justin Haire, return 15 letter winners from last season’s championship squad, including All-Big South performers Barefoot, Michael Horrell and Tyson Messer. CU also welcomes 25 newcomers to the fold.

“Often times, these polls are based on what the team did last year, but this is a very different club,” Haire said. “We have to replace three of four starting pitchers, the first two guys out of our bullpen, and some guys in our lineup that were really dangerous. I’m confident in the young men that we have in our clubhouse, but we have a lot to prove between now and the end of May.”

Opening Day for the 2019 season is set for Feb. 15 in Conway, S.C. The Camels will open the Brittain Resorts Baseball at the Beach tournament against Maryland at 11 a.m. before taking on VCU (Feb. 16), and former Big South foe Coastal Carolina (Feb. 17).

All 53 games on Campbell’s 2019 slate will be played within a three-state radius – North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, including 25 games at Jim Perry Stadium. The schedule also features nine games against 2018 NCAA Tournament teams – Coastal Carolina, ECU, NC State, Duke, North Carolina and UNCW. The Camels open their home slate on Feb. 20 against ECU.