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Houston, ECU pick up where they left off

Carolinas schools snare five spots in rankings

Preseason NCBWA Poll

Rank School
1. Texas
2. Rice
3. Georgia Tech
4. Southern California
5. Stanford
6. Florida State
8. Cal State Fullerton
9. LSU
10. Arizona State
11. Wake Forest
12. Richmond
13. Notre Dame
14. Baylor
15. South Carolina
16. Long Beach State
17. Miami (Fla.)
18. Nebraska
19. South Alabama
20. Mississippi State
21. Stetson
22. Clemson
23. North Carolina
24. Central Florida
25. Ohio State
26. James Madison
27. Southwest Missouri State
28. Virginia Tech
29. Florida Atlantic
31. Auburn
32. Virginia Commonwealth
33. Wichita State
34. Southern
35. Kent State

BOLD CAPS = C-USA schools
Bold = Carolinas schools

From staff and Conference USA reports

The more things change, the more they remain the same in Conference USA baseball. Houston and East Carolina, the two teams that paired off against each other last spring in Kinston's Grainger Stadium for the championship of the C-USA tournament, are the league's top teams once again, according to a preseason poll.

The Cougars are No. 7 while ECU is 30th in the rankings of the nation's projected Top 35 team as compiled by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

In addition to East Carolina, several other Carolinas schools made the rankings. Wake Forest, Clemson and North Carolina of the Atlantic Coast Conference were listed at 11th, 22nd and 23rd, respectively, while South Carolina of the Southeastern Conference was No. 15.

Houston, which tied a school record with 48 wins and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional championship game for the second time in the last three years in 2002, opens its 2003 season when it travels to the West Coast to compete at the Pepperdine Tournament on Feb. 7-9.

Sixteen letterwinners and eight starters return to the Cougar team in 2003. Junior pitcher Brad Sullivan and junior center fielder Michael Bourn have been named to various Preseason All-America teams.

ECU is coming off a 2002 season which saw the Pirates finish 43-20-1, advance to NCAA regional play for the fourth straight year, and win the Conference USA Tournament, the school's first C-USA title in any sport. East Carolina had a final ranking of 24th in the USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN coaches poll last season.

The Pirates will begin their first season under new head coach Randy Mazey with a three-game series at home Feb. 14-16 against Western Carolina. Mazey's club returns 21 lettermen from last season, including 10 pitchers and four regular starting position players, led by preseason All-America third baseman Darryl Lawhorn.

Conference USA teams will play 18 of the 35 teams ranked in the preseason poll, including contests against defending National Champion and No. 1-ranked Texas (Tulane) as well as several games against No. 2 Rice (Houston).

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