RUSSELLVILLE — The start of the 2021 baseball season is on the horizon and on Tuesday, the Great American Conference released its annual preseason coaches poll. In the poll, the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys were picked to finish sixth among the 12-team league.
Topping the poll and receiving 10 of the 12 first-place votes is Oklahoma Baptist. Southern Arkansas was picked second with the remaining two first-place votes. Harding, Arkansas-Monticello and Southwestern Oklahoma were also slotted ahead of the Wonder Boys.
Scheduled to open their season in late January at the Houston Winter Invitational, it will be nearly a full calendar year since the Wonder Boys last took the field as the 2020 season was canceled in mid-March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the end of the 2020 season, the Wonder Boys were 10-12 overall and 6-6 in GAC play. They had won two-straight and were 7-2 at home.
Thanks in part to the COVID eligibility relief from the NCAA, the Wonder Boys have virtually the entire roster back from that 2020 team.
Among those returning players, four hit over .300 including the top hitter in terms of highest returning average in Stormy Taylor who batted .354 last year. Not far off his average was Evan Hafley at .353 and Hafley also represents the most home runs and RBIs returning with seven homers and 28 RBIs a year ago.
On the mound, the Wonder Boys return 11 arms that pitched in 2020. The lowest returning ERA among those is Will Horton. In five relief outings that totaled 9.0 innings of work, Horton posted a 3.00 ERA and struck out 12. Four other pitchers return that logged over 20.0 innings last year in Armando Romero, Shelby Quiggins, Riyan Rodriguez and Hayes Cox. Romero, Quiggins and Cox also registered 30 or more strikeouts each.
As previously mentioned, the Wonder Boys are scheduled to open their season the final weekend in January at the annual Houston Winter Invitational played at Minute Made Park. During that weekend, the Wonder Boys are scheduled to play St. Mary's (Jan. 29), Texas A&M-Kingsville (Jan. 30) and Lubbock Christian (Jan. 31).