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UGA baseball to begin season ranked No. 11

Georgia coach David Perno said, “Preseason rankings are good to generate interest and a sign of respect for a program, and I think this will raise the expectations and accountability for our team."

Georgia coach David Perno said, “Preseason rankings are good to generate interest and a sign of respect for a program, and I think this will raise the expectations and accountability for our team."

ATHENS — Georgia is ranked No. 11 in the nation in the 2012 Baseball America Preseason Top 25, the publication announced Tuesday.

“Preseason rankings are good to generate interest and a sign of respect for a program, and I think this will raise the expectations and accountability for our team,” Georgia coach David Perno said.

The Southeastern Conference, which produced three of the final four teams at the College World Series last year and has won the last three national titles, looks strong again heading into 2012. The SEC accounts for three of the top four teams and six of the Top 11 in the 2012 preseason rankings. The SEC leads all conferences with seven teams in the Top 25.

The Florida Gators, the national runner-up to South Carolina in 2011, occupy the top spot in the preseason rankings. The rest of the top five features Stanford, the Gamecocks, Arkansas and Arizona.

With the season less than a month away, Georgia resumes preparations for the 2012 season this Saturday. Along with the Baseball America ranking, the Bulldogs check in at No. 18 in the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Top 40. The Bulldogs open the 2012 season Feb. 17 by playing host to Presbyterian in a three-game series at Foley Field.

Georgia welcomes back 22 lettermen from the 2011 squad that registered a 33-32 mark and advanced to the NCAA Corvallis (Ore.) Regional final. Eight position starters return along with eight pitchers that logged significant innings.

The projected starting rotation features senior Michael Palazzone (10-5, 3.14 ERA), redshirt sophomore Alex Wood (6-7, 4.44 ERA) and junior Blake Dieterich (3-3, 3.67 ERA). Also, junior Tyler Maloof will anchor the bullpen again after ranking third nationally in saves with 18.

The lineup will center around the top two returning hitters in senior second baseman Levi Hyams (.332-5-38) and junior shortstop Kyle Farmer (.308-8-58).