Mideast Regional Preview

If Manchester is to make a second trip to Appleton, it will need to rely on preseason All-American Jordan Nieman.
Manchester athletics photo

John Skomra
for D3baseball.com

Not much love was given to the Mideast as the preseason rankings came out just a few weeks ago. But make no mistake about it, this region is loaded with talent in 2014. Conferences are deeper than they have been in years and expectations have never been higher throughout the region.

For most, the goal is getting to the Marietta Regional, and for a select few, Appleton, Wis. The Manchester Spartans have made their presence known in postseason play the past decade and it expects to find itself back in Wisconsin again in 2014 but HCAC foe Anderson has different thoughts. Marietta is the lone OAC team recognized in the Top 25 but is arguably the deepest conference in the region. Expect the nation to be exposed to some programs that have not been on the national stage before.

The MIAA should see Adrian and Hope battling for a top spot again. America’s oldest athletic conference may have a couple surprises in store before 2014 is all wrapped up. After fairly quick back-to-back regional exits, Wooster enters 2014 as the NCAC favorite. In the AMCC, Penn State-Behrend and La Roche expect to battle for conference supremacy and the PAC should feature Washington and Jefferson and Thomas More with anticipation of strong campaigns.

New Faces

Jeff Newman, Mount St. Jospeh’s: Newman enters 2014 with a difficult challenge to bring the Mount St. Jospeh program back to relevance in the HCAC. He spent the past 11 seasons as an assistant for the program.

Dan Cleaver, Wilmington: A complete culture change is needed in Wilmington, and Cleaver looks to bring that change. After continuous insipid seasons, Cleaver and his Quaker staff look to recruit to bring the talent to Wilmington that Ohio has.

Conference Summaries

Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association

Third baseman Eric Dawson is one of four captains for the 2014 Dutchmen.
Hope athletics photo

Adrian enters 2014 season looking for its sixth consecutive MIAA title. The Bulldogs will lean on senior outfielder Dan Heatherly, the MIAA player of the year (.319 AVG, 4 HR, 27 RBI). The 30-win season has become a staple in Adrian, Mich., so expect the Bulldogs to be the frontrunners for the MIAA title.

Regular-season champions in 2013 and holder as the Mideast’s sixth best team by the end of the season, Hope has left its mark the past two seasons in the MIAA and regionally. However, the Flying Dutchmen are looking for their first conference tournament championship to claim the automatic bid to Marietta in 2014. Returning a core group of offensive talent, expect Hope to be competing to play more baseball come May.

Calvin is coming off a 2013 trip the MIAA tournament for the first time in its program’s history. With a core nucleus of returners including its entire pitching staff, Calvin is set to compete with Adrian and Hope for a MIAA title. Grant Van Putten, who hit a striking .426 with 63 hits and 25 RBI, will lead the Knights this spring. After losing some key players to graduation, expect Albion to implement small ball to gain advantage as Scott Carden’s team continues to develop. 

Jakeb Briscoe was one of five pitchers on the Thunder's roster to have an ERA under 3.00 in 2013.
Trine athletics photo

Trine relied heavily on the talents of its arms in 2013 to reach the MIAA tournament. Although two losses to Adrian marked an exit from postseason play in 2013, the culture of success has been laid. Despite the loss of two of its aces, the Thunder look to match the 3.52 ERA mark of a year ago if it hopes to compete with the top of the conference. Trine returns seven position players but none hit above the .290 mark in 2013. An offensive explosion would be in order if the Thunder expects to be playing postseason ball this spring.

Engineering a complete overhaul from last year, the Kalamazoo Hornets continue to progress forward into 2014. With a good nucleus of talent being brought in including 23 new players, coach Mike Ott and his staff have their program heading in the right direction. Postseason might not be in the cards this season but the ground is being paved the right way.

Alma enters 2014 with a lot of young talent. Unproven but definitely not a team that should be taken lightly. Olivet continues to build and strive to establish a winning culture in its respective programs.

Ohio Athletic Conference

Always a front-runner, Marietta looks to reach regional play again 2014. This time, however, it may be a very different roster. After graduating six key players in 2013, the Pioneers will call on some young faces in 2014. Dominant pitching has contributed to the success of this program over the past decade. Depending on eligibility, Mideast Rookie of the Year and workhorse Jason Byers (8-2, 2.37 ERA, 77K, 98.2 IP) hopes to pilot the 2014 Etta Express staff in pursuit of a conference championship and beyond. Without him, the Pioneers will need some other of their rookies to step up. 

Zach Carlino, 2013 OAC Pitcher of the Year, highlights a Mount Union roster that returns every letter winner from their OAC title season.
Mount Union athletics photo

With all 21 letter winners back and the reigning OAC tournament championship in Alliance, the Mount Union Purple Raiders have their eyes set on a repeat. Despite the impressive work of conference pitcher of the year Zach Carlino, the Purple Raiders finished just sixth in ERA last season. With another season under their belts but an improved conference, the Raiders have no easy task if they covet a repeat.

Despite losing its starting outfield to graduation after the 2013 season, John Carroll is loaded with talent entering the spring. Led by a stalwart senior class including All-American Jimmy Spagna (.352 BA, 7 homers, 48 RBI) and All-Region Mitch Herringshaw, the Streaks will be looking for their sixth consecutive OAC tournament appearance and its first conference crown. Coach Marc Thibeault needs 21 victories to reach the 300 milestone.

Coming off an impressive showing in the OAC tournament last spring, the Otterbein Cardinals welcome back all but one of their positional starters in 2014. The one, however, was All-American Wes Meadows, who fueled the Cardinal line on the bump and in the middle of that lineup. Without him, All-Region shortstop Sean Kettering (.335 AVG, 53 RBI) leads Otterbein with eyes on an OAC title.

After amassing a few 35-plus win seasons over the past six seasons, the Student Princes have slowly tapered off the past two, cultivating in a mediocre 20-20 mark in 2013. Heidelberg return 12 starters in 2014 led by catcher Alex Grove (.333 BA, 3 HR 23RBI). Expect an able Heidelberg squad to bounce back in Matt Palm’s final season as coach and compete for an OAC title.

Sophoore Mark Zimmerman was a first team All-OAC second baseman for Baldwin Wallace in 2013.
Baldwin Wallace athletics photo

A talented and deep Baldwin Wallace team returns to playoff consideration in 2014 after the school self-imposed sanctions on its athletic programs last season. Returning 11 starters, the Yellow Jackets are another OAC team that has its sights on a championship. BW returns a talented, experienced infield with five all-conference players including Brad Gugliotta (.383 AVG, 38 RBI). On the bump, the Yellow Jackets have some favorable arms returning but must improve from its 4.66 team ERA and 157 bases on balls last season (good for ninth in the conference). 

Coach Ryan Grice and his Capital Crusaders enter 2014 with one of the deepest and most experienced teams in recent memory. Among 14 seniors, outfielder Nate Campbell (.325 AVG, 25 SB) heads a Capital team that won 21 games last season. Do not be surprised if this team turns its conference record around from a season ago and contends for an OAC title.

Dan Cleaver brings the Wilmington Quakers into 2014 looking to turn around a perennial basement dweller in the OAC. Ohio Northern and Muskingum conclude the OAC teams. Both are looking to better a tough seasons from a year ago. Ohio Northern has brought in good talent and should find themselves middle of the road by seasons end.

Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference

Ryan McPike and the rest of the Anderson Ravens edged Manchester in the HCAC preseason poll.
Anderson athletics photo

Despite an impressive 25-win season, the Anderson Ravens struggled a year ago against rival Franklin, dropping all five contests including two in the HCAC tournament. The Raven ball club enters this spring with a chip on its shoulder and look to avenge those losses and earn a trip to a regional. With the high preseason ranking of Manchester, one may expect the Spartans to hold claim to the 2014 conference championship. However, Anderson has been predicted to win the HCAC in the preseason poll. The Ravens are led by first team All HCAC players Jake Craft and Jeremy Shelmadine.

2013 Mideast Region Player of the Year and All American 3B Jordan Niemann (11 homers, nation-leading 71 RBI) and the Manchester Spartans enter 2014 looking for a seventh regional berth in the past 11 years. Ranked No. 7 in the preasons, the Spartans have high big shoes to fill after last season. Manchester lost two All-Americans and the top three of its rotation from a year ago. There is a supposition that this team may not be where it was a short year ago. However, Manchester boasts arguably the best offensive left side of the infield in the country with Niemann and SS Trevor Kimm (seven homers, 53 RBI). Although accumulating an impressive 39 wins last season, the Spartans had an early exit from Appleton, leaving with a sour feeling in their mouths, by dropping two close games in the 2013 World Series. With that as motivation, expect to see Manchester battling with Anderson for another regional trip in 2014.

Senior Chris Hoopingarner leads a returning rotation with a 7-5 record, a 2.66 ERA in a school record 88 innings in 2013.
Franklin athletics photo

Laying claim to the longest active HCAC tournament berth streak in the league, the Franklin Grizzlies come into 2014 expected to compete for regional play. Though losing some key players from last season, Franklin will count on its seniors Chris Hoopingarner (7-5, 2.66 ERA) and OF Scott Windler, who needs 51 hits to set the school record for most career hits in Grizzly history.

The Transylvania Pioneers have maintained a steady hand under coach Chris Campbell. Under his leadership the Pioneers have won at least 20 games in each of his first six seasons but have been on the outside looking in for the past five. The 2014 Transy baseball program looks to blaze a trail back into postseason play this spring and challenge for the top of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. 

With a solid core of players back on the field in Defiance, the Yellow Jackets look to make a splash in the HCAC again in 2014. Although riding one of its most successful campaigns in 2013, Defiance was a lowly 0-5 against HCAC foes Manchester and Anderson being outscored 61-16 in those matchups. Success this spring rides on its ability to beat the preeminent teams in the conference.

With a resume including 25 years and an impressive 601 career victories at Rose-Hulman, coach Jeff Jenkins has positive hopes for 2014. Led by all-region outfielder Hank Akard, the Fightin’ Engineers hope to rebound from last season. Despite only 15 wins, 12 of them occurred in the HCAC. Conference play will be the key to success for this team this season.

Bluffton is coming off a 21-win season which ranks best in program history. Just missing the post-season in 2013, this springs’ Beaver team have high hopes to surprise the conference and find itself in its first ever HCAC tournament appearance.

Hanover and Earlham baseball programs still act as fishing nets for wins against most of the conference. With an anemic eight wins into 2013, Mount St. Joseph looks to new coach Jeff Newman for guidance. With change as the only way to bring progress, Newman has added some 20 new players this season to turn the corner for the Lions.

Eddie Nogay hopes to take the Presidents to the 2014 D-III World Series.
Washngton and Jefferson athletics photo

Presidents' Athletic Conference

Coming off another strong season, Jeff Mountain and the Washington and Jefferson Presidents surge into 2014 as favorites in the PAC. Seniors and preseason first team All-Americans Eddie Nogay (22-1 career record, 2.61 ERA) and Josh Staniscia (career.375 AVG, 38 RBI last season) lead the apt Presidents team in search of another 30-win season and beyond a program -best third place regional finish from a year ago.

The story for the Thomas More Saints entering this spring is revenge. The Saints fell to rival W&J in the PAC championship last spring just to run into them again in a decisive win-or-go-home game in the Mideast Regional. With a 15-inning 11-8 loss, Thomas More looks to avenge the Presidents in 2014 with a PAC title and a trip to Marietta.

Despite back-to-back 20-win seasons, Waynesburg has struggled against the top PAC foes, resulting in them looking from the outside in come postseason play. With the loss of some good talent from last season and a slew of newcomers this year, expect the Yellow Jackets to sit lower to middle of the road in 2014.

The Tomcats went two and out last season in the PAC Tournament. But after consistent sub-.500 to .500 seasons, Thiel has emerged as a threat in the conference. However, losing its top four hitters from a season ago, the Tomcats will rely on its recruiting class and younger returners with hopes for another 17 conference-win season. Senior outfielder Nick Schlavoni, who hit .321 with 13 doubles last season, and the rest of the Thiel Tomcats have an uphill climb to in if they hope for regional play in 2014.

Grove City, Westminster (Pa.), Bethany and Geneva round out the rest of the HCAC and hope to compete as Cinderella if there is any chance of post-season play.

The Redhawks should make a run for a regional title in 2014.
La Roche athletics photo

Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference

The Redhawks of La Roche have made some noise regionally the past couple seasons. Competing in a very top-heavy conference, La Roche will look to play again for an AMCC title. The Redhawks added some hitting and boasts a team of upperclassmen that have experienced two AMCC championship games, bringing home the title in 2012. A 30-win season is on its radar as La Roche enters 2013, with hopes for a deep regional run.

Mount Aloysius posted 26 wins in 2013, good enough for 3rd place in the conference. They return Derrick Capiak who no-hit La Roche in the AMCC tournament for the Mounties final win of the year.

Pitt-Bradford hopes to make the jump to the top of the AMCC this season. second team all-conference pitcher Aaron Cressley will be the paramount key to its success in 2014. The Penn State-Behrend Lions cruise into 2014 having won 28 games or more the past four seasons. Coach Paul Benim needs 29 victories to reach the 500 landmark. Dante Desantis leads the Lions pitching staff after achieving 58K in 64 innings of work last season. Because the middle to bottom of the conference is at best mediocre, the Lions should find themselves atop the conference and stretching toward 30 wins.

Pitt-Greensburg and Penn State Altoona enter 2014 with hopes of cracking the upper echelon of the AMCC. A collective lower half of the conference programs hope to take the next step in AMCC this season. These programs include Medaille, D’Youville, and Hilbert.

Wooster second baseman Eddie Reese was one of four mideast players on the 2014 D3baseball.com preseason All-American team.
Wooster athletics photo

North Coast Athletic Conference

Preseason All-American Eddie Reese and the Wooster Fighting Scots enter 2014 looking for their third consecutive trip to regional play. The Scots have lost four of five in the NCAA postseason since 2012. A team that may be a bit under the radar right now because of this, Wooster looks to embark on a special season together. With experience galore, 16 seniors will spike up for coach Tim Pettorini this spring in search for the program's 16th league title.

Denison finished with an impressive 25-win campaign a year ago. Two quick losses in the NCAC tournament soured its season. The Big Red boasted an impressive drop of almost 2 earned runs in its team ERA last year. With a full recruiting class coming, coach Mike Deegan and his Big Red have a talented bunch that is capable of a post-season surge. 

Allegheny brings back a cluster of talent this spring from a 2013 team that challenged Wooster for the NCAC title. The versatile Kyle Davis leads a Gator team hungry for an NCAC title. Oberlin enters 2014 coming off the programs best season to date. The 2013 campaign saw a slew of school records broken and a school-best third place finish in the NCAC. Returning 13 starters, the Yeomen are primed for another NCAC tournament run.

Despite a 9-10 record in conference in 2013, the Tigers showed signs of promise for this spring. Wittenberg returns nine players from a year ago, including senior Tyler Hutchinson (.382 AVG, 5 HR, 34 RBI) and junior Brandon Reaman, who batted a notable .425 in 2013.

The Ohio Wesleyan Battling Bishops return three of its four all-conference talent including senior Sean Vollenweider, who finished eighth in the conference last season will a .377 AVG and slugged a noteworthy .507. Coach Tyler Mott’s teams looks to rebound after skidding to a sub-.500 season last year. Because of the deep and talented NCAC in 2014, OWU may land anywhere from top three to bottom four by season's end. 

Hiram, DePauw, Wabash and Kenyon find themselves on the bottom of a very strong conference. One of these team may have the capabilities to challenge the likes of Wooster, Allegheny and Denison for a spot in the conference postseason. 


Last season’s University Athletic Association champions, the Case Western Reserve Spartans had one of their best seasons to date. They finished 21st in the nation and runner-up in the Midwest Regional in 2013. This year should be more of the same. The Spartan infield will have a different look from a year ago, but the experience of all-UAA infielder Andrew Gronski and all-UAA pitcher John Fortunato should have coach Matt Englander’s team battling for regional contention.