VALDOSTA -- Valdosta State's bat sports teams will open the 2004 season with high expectations -- from the other coaches in the Gulf South Conference.

The Blazer baseball team was a strong second in the conference's preseason East Division poll. It was just one point behind Alabama-Huntsville, 43-42, in the voting by the coaches.

VSU also received two votes in the poll to predict the tournament champion. Delta State got 12 of those 17 votes.

The Blazer softball team was picked third behind West Florida and Alabama-Huntsville in its preseason East Division poll.

Those teams' seasons open next week, with baseball playing at Saint Leo Wednesday before playing a three-game series with Barry Feb. 7-8 at Billy Grant Field.

Softball opens Feb. 6-8 with five games at the North Florida tournament. The Blazers' home opener is Feb. 20-21 vs. Alabama-Huntsville.

VSU's first six GSC East games are against West Florida (Feb. 14-15) and Alabama-Huntsville.

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Alabama-Huntsville got four of the eight first-place votes in the GSC East baseball poll. The Chargers also got one second-place, one third-place and one fourth-place vote.

VSU received two firsts, four seconds and a fourth.

West Florida was third (37), followed by North Alabama (32), West Alabama and West Georgia (24), Montevallo (13) and Lincoln Memorial (7).

The Blazers were picked second despite returning just two position starters and just one of its top three starting pitchers.

That one returning starting pitcher, righthander Adam Lingenfelter, is listed on the conference's preseason team -- which consists of the returning first- and second-team all-GSC players.

VSU had three players listed among the conference's top newcomers -- first baseman Greg Adams, shortstop Robert Morgan and centerfielder Jermaine Johnson.

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West Florida got six first-place votes in the softball preseason poll. Alabama-Huntsville received a first-place vote, four fourth-place votes and a third-place votes.

Valdosta State got two seconds and four fourths. VSU (26 points) was followed by West Georgia (22), Lincoln Memorial (12), North Alabama (11) and West Alabama (10).

Four Blazers were picked on the preseason all-Gulf South team -- catcher Tonya Coffey, pitcher Brooke King, shortstop Linsey Walker and utility player Tiffany Moon.

Pitcher Amanda Edwards and outfielder Kelly Summers, the former Lowndes High player who redshirted last season at Georgia, are on the newcomers list.

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