Tarleton Baseball has been tabbed fourth in the annual Lone Star Conference preseason rankings while senior Nathan Hickey earned the league's Preseason Pitcher of the Year award.

"We are excited for the season to begin with this group," said head coach Bryan Conger earlier this week. "As the preseason polls start to roll out, we understand what they mean and what they don't. Our goal is to be in that No. 1 spot in the middle of May."

Tarleton was picked fourth in the league with 97 total votes, which is 13 behind Texas A&M-Kingsville in third and 37 ahead of Eastern New Mexico in fifth. Angelo State (133) and West Texas A&M (122) were the top two teams in the poll while Cameron (51) and UT Permian Basin (24) rounded out the rankings. The Texans went 28-20 last season and return all seven All-LSC first and second team selections.

A native of Granbury, Hickey becomes the first Texan since Pete Perez in 2013 to earn the league's top preseason pitching honor.

"We are proud of Nathan and the hard work he puts into his craft on a daily basis to help our team win," said head coach Bryan Conger. "He is a tremendous teammate who has the respect and support of our entire program. Knowing Nathan, I'm sure he is simply going to shrug his shoulders and look at his practice plan for the day and go to work with the desire to improve. That's how he does it and that's why he is successful."Hickey is coming off an All-LSC first team season in which he led the Lone Star Conference in ERA at 1.79. That mark was also a Tarleton single-season ERA record by a starting pitcher as the right-hander from Granbury allowed just 22 earned runs in 70.1 innings of work in his 8-2 season. He was also an LSC Gold Glove pitcher.

Tarleton will begin the 2018 campaign on Friday, Feb. 2 at Minute Maid Park in Houston against Henderson State at 10 a.m. to open the annual Houston Winter Invitational.