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Kentucky Baseball Predicted To Finish Second in SEC Eastern Division; Three Wildcats Chosen to Prese

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The University of Florida has been predicted to win the 2018 Southeastern Conference baseball championship as voted by the league’s 14 head coaches in the annual preseason poll released Thursday, Feb. 8. Kentucky placed No. 2 in SEC Eastern Division.

The preseason All-SEC first and second teams, as determined by the head coaches, were also announced. Three UK standouts -- juniors Sean Hjelle (pictured) and Tristan Pompey, and senior Luke Becker -- were named to preseason All-SEC teams.

Pompey received first-team All-SEC honors as an outfielder, while Hjelle was named to the second-team All-SEC as a starting pitcher and Becker joined him as a second baseman. Pompey, who was a first-team All-SEC and third-team All-American in 2017, was recognized on the strength of his incredible sophomore season. The Toronto, Ontario native has been named to multiple preseason All-America teams as well.

Florida, the defending NCAA champion, garnered 12 first place votes, while Arkansas and Texas A&M had one each. The Gators were predicted to win the Eastern Division, while Arkansas was the favorite to win the 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.

Thirteen schools were represented on two All-SEC teams with Florida leading the way with five selections. Arkansas garnered four selections, while Kentucky had three.

The 2018 regular season for SEC teams begins Feb. 16, with conference play set to begin March 16.

In 2017, the SEC led the nation with eight selections to the NCAA Baseball Tournament, and the championship series of the College World Series featured an All-SEC final between Florida and LSU.

2018 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason Poll

Eastern Division

1. Florida – 91

2. Kentucky - 74

3. Vanderbilt – 72

4. South Carolina – 50

5. Georgia – 41

6. Missouri – 32

7. Tennessee – 25

Western Division

1. Arkansas – 90

2. Texas A&M – 72

3. Ole Miss – 62

4. LSU – 59

5. Mississippi State – 44

6. Auburn – 38

7. Alabama – 20

SEC Champion: Florida (12), Arkansas (1), Texas A&M (1)

2018 SEC Baseball Coaches Preseason All-SEC Team

First Team

C: Grant Koch, Arkansas

1B: Julian Infante, Vanderbilt

2B: Cobie Vance, Alabama

SS: Braden Shewmake, Texas A&M

3B: Jonathan India, Florida

OF: Antoine Duplantis, LSU

OF: Tristan Pompey, Kentucky

OF: Jake Mangum, Mississippi State

DH/UTL: Michael Curry, Georgia

SP: Brady Singer, Florida

SP: Casey Mize, Auburn

RP: Michael Byrne, Florida

Second Team

C: JJ Schwarz, Florida

1B: Kameron Misner, Missouri

2B: Luke Becker, Kentucky

SS: Jax Biggers, Arkansas

3B: George Janca, Texas A&M

OF: Dominic Fletcher, Arkansas

OF: Zach Watson, LSU

OF: Carlos Cortes, South Carolina

DH/UTL: JJ Schwarz, Florida

SP: Sean Hjelle, Kentucky

SP: Blaine Knight, Arkansas

RP: Dallas Woolfolk, Ole Miss

Photo by Noah Richter, UK Athletics

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