|Washington and Jefferson will start the 2018
season with a No. 3 ranking.
d3photography.com photo by Larry Radloff.
by Jim Dixon
Last year it was the Washington and Jefferson Presidents who took the mantle as Mideast Regional champs and they ended the season with their highest ranking and a runner-up finish in the D-III World Series. W&J will be in the national spotlight again but will have plenty of company for the regional trophy.
Count Wooster as the number one contender. Always a national powerhouse, the Scots will be back again for a shot at glory. Out in Michigan, the MIAA is getting a resurgence. Adrian will see plenty of challenges but look for the Bulldog's bite to be as ferocious as ever.
The OAC is always a place to look for Regional contenders. Mount Union is expected to have the upper hand but Otterbein and Marietta will challenge the Purple Raiders on the diamond. Franklin is an early favorite over the surprise team in 2017, Earlham. La Roche and Case Western will also be teams to keep an eye on as the Mideast race is wide open for 2018.
Brandon Crum, Allegheny: Crum returns to Allegheny after serving as the team's assistant coach from 2012-16 under former head coach Kelly Swiney, who tendered his resignation in July. "It's a remarkable feeling to have the opportunity to represent Allegheny College and the Gator baseball program as head coach," Crum said. "As a native of the Meadville area and former assistant coach here, this institution is truly home to me. Allegheny has meant so much to my family and I over the years, and I have tremendous pride and passion for Gator athletics."
Pete Daniels, Clarks Summit: Daniels will be tagged with the challenge of leading the team into its first season as a member of the CSAC. He has fine-tuned his knowledge of the game over the past few seasons in the assistant coaching ranks and has worked hard to build a trusting, caring relationship with the players.
RJ Barnard, Penn State Altoona: Barnard was the team's interim head coach last season after being named to that position in 2016. He now steps into a full-time staff role within the Penn State Altoona Athletics department. Barnard has earned this opportunity through his dedication to Penn State Altoona as a former student-athlete, a part-time baseball coach, and a part-time staff member in our Athletics department.
|New Titan's head coach Kelly Swiney moved from
Allegheny to Westminster (Pa.) last summer.
Allegheny athletics photo
Kelly Swiney, Westminster (Pa.): Swiney took over the reins of the Titan's squad this summer. Swiney had been the head baseball coach at Allegheny for the past nine seasons. "First and foremost, I would like to thank Director of Athletics Jim Dafler and President Kathy Richardson for this opportunity," Swiney said. "Their vision and commitment to the future of the athletic department and baseball program is impressive. I feel very fortunate to become the next head baseball coach at Westminster College. I can't wait to get started." In eight of his nine seasons as the Gators' head coach, Swiney guided the team to winning seasons, including a trip to the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Tournament Championship game in 2013.
Games to Watch in 2018
March 11: Washington and Jefferson hosts La Roche in a crucial regional contest.
March 23: Mount Union doubleheader with Otterbein could decide OAC title.
April 1: Case Western ends four game set with Emory in UAA clash.
April 6,7: Kalamazoo and Hope meet in a four game set.
April 8: The annual grudge match between Wooster and Marietta is at Don Schaly Stadium.
April 21: Franklin and Earlham play a doubleheader in Franklin, Ind.
Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference: La Roche (34-10) has consistently ranked among the nation's top teams over the past several years as they have won four straight AMCC Championships. Make 2018 the fifth straight. La Roche returns five AMCC All-Conference players including 2017 AMCC Pitcher of the Year Nick Tunstall (4-1, 2.66 ERA, 30K). Tunstall is joined in the rotation by Regis Sauer (9-1, 3.67 ERA, 37 K) as the pitching staff returns with 31 wins from 2017 represented in the 2018 staff. The Red Hawks will need a solid pitching staff as five All-Region players graduated in 2017 from the hitting lineup, leaving plenty of holes to be filled on the offense.
Penn State-Behrend (25-19) will contend with La Roche for conference supremacy. Penn State Behrend lost two top batters and their second-best pitcher to graduation but a solid core remains. Scott Sada (.390, 7 HR, 48 RBI) led the Nittany Lions in nearly every offensive category and will be joined by senior David Boehme (.309, 1 HR, 30 RBI) at the plate. Junior pitcher Phil Myers (6-1, 3.05 ERA, 50 K) and senior pitcher Jack Herzing (5-3, 3.84 ERA, 80 K) will anchor a veteran pitching staff.
Pitt-Greensburg (18-15) and Penn State-Altoona (19-21) made the conference tournament. Penn State-Altoona improved their record by eight wins over the previous season and expect further improvement in 2018. Building on a team that consisted of over twenty freshmen, head coach RJ Barnard will have just a few upperclassmen in the starting lineup. Senior Jim Shomberg (.391, 11 RBI) and junior Austin Anderson (.337, 6 RBI) will be counted on for their leadership abilities to help a still young team mature.
|Matt McCourt finished second in the nation with
15 home runs in 2017.
Mount Aloysius athletics photo
Mount Aloysius (17-26), Pitt-Bradford (16-25) made the 2017 tournament as the bottom two seeds and both advanced to the final round of four, upsetting the higher seeded teams. Medaille (12-27), D'Youville (4-26), and Hilbert (8-24) all stayed home from the AMCC tournament. The top player from the south end of the AMCC standings is Mount Aloysius shortstop Matt McCourt (.349, 15 HR, 48 RBI). Alfred State joins the AMCC as an affiliate member this spring.
TEAM TO BEAT: La Roche
Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference: Franklin (21-17) finished outside the playoffs on 2017 but expect the Grizzlies future to move upwards in 2018. Five of seven All-HCAC performers return, all named to the first or second team. At the top is All-Region pitcher Jordan Clark (7-0, 3 SV, 2.82 ERA, 80 K) back for this junior season. Classmate and starting shortstop Sam Claycamp (.347, 7 HR, 34 RBI) is the top returning batter. He will be joined by senior third baseman Frank Podkul (.282, 6 HR, 35 RBI), junior catcher Jackson Freed (.328, 1 HR, 20 RBI) and freshman first baseman Nick Wright (.310, 9 HR, 41 RBI).
Earlham (30-14) had a historic season last year and their steady improvement proved that this is a program on the rise. With some regional experience under their belt they will be out to prove 2017 was status quo, not a fluke. Mount St. Joseph (24-20) may not be a national contender but if the same lightning that struck Earlham in 2017 hits, the Lions will be more than conference playoff contenders. MSJ have a solid core returning with Nathan Hunter (.329, 5 HR, 32 RBI), and Kyree Hawkins (.288, 1 HR, 19 RBI) swinging the bats and Alex Wagner (1-5, 2.63 ERA, 57 K) on the mound.
Manchester (22-21) finished second to Earlham in 2017 and made a quick exit in the conference tournament. With six position players and four key pitchers back for the 2018 season the Spartans will be in the fight for the HCAC title. Good news for 2018 (and the next year) is that the HCAC freshman of the year, Joe Gallatin (.358, 7 HR, 46 RBI) will behind the plate with a core of junior position players. Heading out to the mound will be seniors Brandon Eck (4-4, 3.91 ERA, 41 K) and Stephen Pinarski (3-2, 3.89 ERA, 20 K).
Rose-Hulman (18-24) was hit hard by graduation and is looking to rebuild. With a big recruiting class, the team will have to mature quickly to make the conference tournament but a return to the end of the season playoff is more likely in 2019 than this season. Junior outfielder David Burnside (.384, 7 HR, 38 RBI) is the Engineers best returning hitter and part if an outstanding junior class. Defiance (14-25), Bluffton (15-20), Hanover (18-20), Anderson (14-23), Transylvania (13-24) round out the bottom half of the 2017 standings with Defiance pitcher Paris Creek (3-2, 1.87 ERA, 26 K) the only first team All-HCAC player from this group back in 2018.
TEAM TO BEAT: Franklin
|2018 D3baseball.com Preseason All-American
has Kalamazoo looking to top the MIAA in 2018.
Kalamazoo athletics photo
Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association: Not every team can lose two All-Americans (Ian Mikowski and Ryan Dorow) and still be looking at a conference title. Adrian (34-13) is doing just that. And in a conference that has seen teams behind them in the standings take big steps towards challenging the Bulldogs. You only have to look at the Adrian's All-MIAC pitching staff to know where their strength will be in 2018. D3baseball.com Preseason All-American and reigning MIAA Pitcher of the Year Tommy Parsons (12-1, 1.23 ERA, 60 K) will be the staff ace with All-MIAA Pierce Banks (8-1, 2.43 ERA, 60 K) and Jason Schroeder (6-0, 2.49 ERA, 39 K) giving the Bulldogs one of the best rotations in D-III nation. Senior Hunter Hayes (.345, 4 HR, 46 RBI) is expected to have a big year and help replace some of the production from Mikowski and Dorow.
Hope (24-18) is eyeing another spot in the MIAA end of the season tournament. The outfield will get an upgrade as freshman Evan Maday joins sophomore Mason Opple (.373, 2 HR, 36 RBI) and junior Jordon Fairchild (.298, 12 RBI, 10 SB) patrolling the expanse of Buys field. The Dutchmen return Nick Holt (5-3, 4.40 ERA, 28 K) on the mound.
Kalamazoo (31-14) is poised to take the step to national prominence and 2018 will be a statement year if they can match last year's record performance. Graduation saw a number of players with school records see the end of their college career but the program will look into their pool of talent for replacements. One big piece of their success has been 2018 D3baseball.com Preseason All-American Ryan Orr. Orr (7-2, 3.05 ERA, 76 K) has rewritten the pitching record book but as a two-way player posted big numbers with the bat (.331, 31 RBI, 10 SB) as well. Like Orr, junior Jordan Wiley (.288, 17 RBI, 36 SB) had has success in the spring and in the top summer wood-bat leagues.
Calvin (20-23) is looking to be a strong contender for the top of the MIAA standings. Two-way player junior Jonathon Keane (.296, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 5-4, 3.90 ERA, 59K) will contribute from the plate, the mound and on defense as the starting shortstop. Sophomore Logan Marshall (.325, 1 HR, 12 RBI) will be behind the plate and senior Nate DeZwaan (.336, 1 HR, 27 RBI) will handle defensive duties at the hot corner. Trine (19-18), Alma (15-25), Albion (15-24), and Olivet (8-32) missed the playoffs with Trine and Alma losing out to Calvin on tiebreakers. First team All-MIAA infielder Jacob Heller (.408, 2 HR, 25 RBI) returns to Trine for the 2018 season.
TEAM TO BEAT: Adrian
|Michael Wielansky is a top candidate for Player of
the Year as he leads Wooster on the field in 2018.
Wooster athletics photo
North Coast Athletic Conference: No. 14 Wooster (36-10) will be the top team out of the NCAC again. They will bring a mix of experience and youth to the diamond and a deep pitching staff on the mound. D3baseball.com Preseason All-American Michael Wielansky (.425, 10 HR, 54 RBI) was one of the top players in the summer wood bat leagues and part of an all junior infield. Gone is Michael Houdek, 2017 NCAC Pitcher of the Year, but three quality upperclassmen will take the rock. Nanak Saran (8-0, 2.92 ERA, 61 K) and Chandler Dippma (4-0, 2.57 ERA, 7 k) will start and James Usher (3-0, 1.75 ERA, 18K) will come out of the bullpen.
Providing a challenge to the Scots will be Denison (29-12), The Big Red has finished just outside the Regionals in back-to-back years and are determined to break through the door this spring. Senior outfielder Tanner Johnson (.383, 21 SB, 38 RBI)) is coming off an All-Region performance in 2017 and a solid summer in the Coastal Plains League. Shortstop Jack Blanchard (.366, 3 HR, 33 RBI) and catcher Sam Frazen (.258, 1 HR, 18 RBI) will provide senior leadership in key defensive positions. Senior Andrew Bruss (5-1, 3.00 ERA) is a top returner on the mound.
Oberlin (23-20) bounced back from a down year following their only NCAA playoff berth (2015) with a program record for wins. To avoid another let down, the Yeomen will need the offensive production from junior catcher Brendan Mapes (.400, 4 HR, 31 RBI) and senior designated hitter Milo Sklar (.323, 10 2B, 18 RBI) to continue. Sklar (2-2, 7 SV, 4.89 ERA, 18 K) will also come out of the bullpen in support of Oberlin's top pitchers - senior Sean Kiley (5-2, 3.67 ERA, 62K) and junior Zachary Steer (5-1, 4.83 ERA, 27 K). DePauw (33-13) earned an at-large bid in 2017 but to repeat, they will have to do it without their two to All-Region Players and four more players who earned All-NCAC honors. The lone conference honoree returning is senior outfielder Collin Einertson (.353, 4 HR, 40 RBI)
Allegheny (23-17), Kenyon (17-23), Hiram (16-19), Wabash (22-16), Ohio Wesleyan (14-26), and Wittenberg (13-23) missed the conference tournament in 2017 Allegheny is looking to return in 2018. The lineup is in flux as first year head coach Brandon Crum finds the right spot in the lineup and in the defense for his athletes. Expect to see juniors Brandon Pouch (.434, 5 2B, 18 RBI) behind the plate and Ethan Pawlak (.369, 2 HR, 24 RBI) in the outfield and in the heart of the order. The Gators were hit hard on the mound by graduation but return a couple of arms that will continue to see improvement with a solid bullpen to back them up.
TEAM TO BEAT: Wooster
|Phil Mary was named the Kent Tekulve OAC
Pitcher-of-the-Year in 2017 and is looking for
the same honor in 2018.
Mount Union athletics photo
Ohio Athletic Conference: The defending Mount Union Purple Raiders (31-11) are poised to make it two in a row. One of two team to have two players on the D3baseball.com Preseason All-American first team, Mount Union also has a senior laden team that knows that time to win is now. Senior outfielder Billy Goodall (.451, 3 HR, 34 RBI, 25 SB) and junior starting pitcher Phil Mary (10-0, 0.78 ERA, 62 K) made this year's season opening honor role. Add in the likes of seniors Joey Keleman (.348, 5 HR, 37 RBI) and Jimmy Scott (.300, 13 2B, 36 RBI) and you understand why the expectations are high in Alliance, Ohio
Also in the mix for a run at the conference crown is Otterbein (31-14). Six of the starting nine are upperclassmen but look to the pitching staff as the strength of the team. Three returning pitchers account for 22 of the 31 wins in 2017 - senior Craig Prince (7-4, 2.25 ERA, 96 K), senior Stevie Yuran (7-4, 2.25 ERA, 66 K), and junior Johnny Putnam (8-2, 2.77 ERA, 44 K).
Marietta (22-18) has always been in the mix for the conference title. Head coach Brian Brewer always finds a way to get his team ready and has assembled one of the toughest non-conference schedule to get his team ready for the OAC season. The Pioneers will be led by a trio of senior All-OAC players. On the offense will be second baseman Conner Golden (.300, 2 2B, 18 RBI) and shortstop Chris Pettrucci (.318, 8 2B, 8 RBI). David Stover (7-1, 2.48 ERA, 25 K) is one of the Pioneers best on the mound.
Baldwin Wallace (22-17) will have some big shoes to fill if they want to reach their high-water mark in wins (31) set just three years ago. Cole Nieto, an All-Region performer, who fueled the rise to national consideration, is gone but the Yellow Jackets have a senior class that hungry to make the conference tournament. Alex Marcum (.347, 5 HR, 41 RBI) and Trent Kaltenback (.345, 1 HR, 20 RBI) will swing a bat and Evan Lovick (8-2, 2.47 ERA, 49K) is looking for another stellar year on the mound.
Heidelberg (22-17) and John Carroll (18-22) finished just outside a conference playoff spot but each is looking to improve this season. to get back to the OAC playoffs, Heidelberg will look at two players in their last year of eligibility to get them there. Senior Anthony Hajdu (7-2, 2.81 ERA, 53 K) will look to add wins from the mound and graduate second baseman Evan Long (.388, 5 HR, 37 RBI) will do it with his bat and glove.
Ohio Northern (21-19), Capital (17-20), Muskingum (15-23), and Wilmington (7-33) rounded out the standings. The Capital Crusaders will be able to pitch and field the ball from the start of the season as they look for offense to catch up. Capital's top pitcher will be senior Joe Borkey (3-2, 3.57 ERA, 46K). Ohio Northern's TJ Storer (1-0, 14 SV, 1.69 ERA, 12 K) earned D3baseball.com Preseason honors as a relief pitcher.
TEAM TO BEAT: Mount Union
|Thomas More is the only team to make every
PAC championship since joining the conference
and Ben Laumann (pictured) will be key for a
13th straight appearance.
Thomas More athletics photo
Presidents' Athletic Conference: No. 3 Washington and Jefferson (42-13) has loaded up their schedule with the best teams in the region with the goal of returning to the championship round. With a senior heavy lineup and rotation, all the elements are there for a National title run. Seniors Bryce Schnatterly (9-1, 3.40 ERA, 27 K) and Matt Heslin (5-0, 3.29 ERA, 30 K) provides a solid 1-2 punch in the rotation. Catcher Dan Trettel (.268, 5 3B, 20 RBI) will provide senior leadership behind the plate with first baseman Mark Merlino (.388, 8 HR, 47 RBI) doing the same with the bat.
Thomas More (27-12) will challenge the Presidents for the PAC title. Key to their success will be the double play combination of second baseman Ben Laumann (.387, 8 HR, 32 RBI) and shortstop Jacob Whitford (.353, 4 HR, 35 RBI). Jayson Essell (5-2, 3.04 ERA, 21 K) is the Saints top returner on the pitching staff.
Grove City (19-19), Thiel (21-19), and Waynesburg (18-21) will compete for the final two playoff spots. Grove City's pitching ace John Bini (6-1, 3.69 ERA, 47 K) and outfielder Tyler Graham (.322, 9 SB, 12 RBI) should give the Wolverines an advantage over their PAC competition.
Expected to fall outside the conference postseason are Westminster (Pa.) (11-22), St. Vincent (14-21), Bethany (14-22-1), and Geneva (8-27). Westminister could break into the four-team party if D3baseball.com Preseason All-American Joseph Salmen (.471, 8 SB, 10 RBI) can meet or exceed his early expectations. Chatam (14-14) in their second year will join the PAC this spring.
TEAM TO BEAT: Washington and Jefferson
Independent: Case Western (24-16) and Clarks Summit (7-21) are the two independents in the Mideast region but the similarities end there as Case is gearing up for a run at a NCAA playoff berth and Clarks Summit is looking to get to the .500 mark. The Spartans of Case Western earned a second-place finish in the UAA and a first-place mark is a near automatic as a Pool B selection when playoff bids are passed around. Look for junior Tyler Wypiszenski (.336, 3 HR, 30 RBI) to get more time behind the plate with senior Ben Murphy (4-1, 2.51, 20 K) and junior Mark Gross (4-4, 2.93 ERA, 38 K) to hear up the pitching rotation.