The Gamecocks, 22-8 in league play a year ago, scored 154 points in the voting of league coaches and publicists.
Tennessee Tech was installed as the heavy favorite — collecting 19 of 22 first-place votes — followed in close order by Austin Peay, Belmont and JSU.
“I think that’s a very reasonable way to look at it,” Gamecocks coach Jim Case said of the order. “The interesting thing to me — and it happens every year in this league — somebody will do something we’re not expecting.”
As for being picked fourth, Case said, “I don’t really look at it as disrespectful to the program. I look at it that there’s more depth in the league than we’ve had in some years.”
Stout, a preseason All-American, broke JSU's single-season saves record last year with 17, while posting a 3-0 record and 1.42 ERA in 31 appearances. He had 12 saves and an 0.49 ERA in OVC play.
He gave up only one earned run in his final 23 appearances.
“Obviously, it’s an honor,” Stout said. “At the end of the day it’s preseason, and preseason just means what they think is going to happen and it’s an opinion.
“Opinions don’t always happen, but I’m going to do my best to make it happen.”
This season, the right-hander said he’d like to convert every save opportunity he gets, reduce his walks and cut the earned runs he allows to around five.
“You always have expectations,” Stout said. “I try not to set any at an unreachable point … that’s setting yourself up for failure.”
Outfielders Michael Bishop (.340, 26 RBIs) and Griff Gordon (.341, 40 RBIs) also made the preseason All-OVC team.
The Gamecocks, 32-26 a year ago, open Case’s 13th season at the helm on Valentine’s Day against Northwestern (La.) State.
Senior right-hander Taylor Shields (8-3, 4.15) has been designated the opening-day starter. Junior right-hander Zach Fowler is expected to start one of the other games in the three-game weekend series.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.