LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - In exclusive balloting by the head baseball coaches of the SCAC, defending league champion Trinity University was tabbed as the preseason favorite to capture the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference title in 2014.
Trinity University headlined the annual poll of head coaches and is favored to win the SCAC title for what would be the fourth time in the last five seasons. Head coach Tim Scannell enters his 16th season and has led the Tigers to eight SCAC titles during his tenure as well as numerous trips to the NCAA Regionals including two straight Regional final appearances. Trinity recevied 47 votes and six of the seven first-place votes.
Trinity lost 13 seniors who led the program to four NCAA Regionals and three SCAC titles as well as finishing atop the SCAC a season ago with a .320 team average. This year's edition of the Tigers will be led by seniors Christian Muscarello and Pat Hirschberg as both were named D3baseball.com Preseason All-Americans. Muscarello earned All-Region and All-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference recognition last season as he led the Tigers in runs scored (35), batted .377, and accounted for 35 RBI, three home runs, and 11 doubles. He is a three-time All-SCAC selection.
Hirschberg was elected to All-America Teams by the American Baseball Coaches Association and D3baseball.com in 2013. He was also named the SCAC Offensive Co-Player of the Year after finishing in the top-five in nearly every offensive category in the conference in 2013. In addition to his impressive exploits on the diamont, Hirschberg was recognized for his talents in the classroom and was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Team.
The Tigers also welcome back junior Zack Speer, who was 9-0 a season ago with a 1.51 ERA and a major part of the Trinity pitching staff that led the conference with a team ERA of 2.47. Watch Trinity Baseball Media Days
Texas Lutheran University comes in second, earning 41 votes as well as remaining first place vote. The Bulldogs are led by head coach Greg Burnett as the program prepares for its first season in the SCAC after winning the American Southwest Conference (ASC) Western Division title in 2013 which also earned Burnett ASC Coach-of-the-Year honors.
Despite losing some major playmakers from last season, the Bulldogs have a large and strong senior class returning in 2014. After batting .276 as a team a year ago, TLU returns a majority of its infield and outfield, including First Team All-ASC junior outfielder Tony Gennusa and junior first baseman/designated hitter Derek Kanas. Gennusa hit .293 with 31 runs scored, a team-best 11 doubles, a team-high three triples, two homers, and 25 RBI. The team's lead-off hitter, Gennusa also stole 17 bases, walked 23 times and was second on the team in slugging percentage. He did not make an error all season and had six outfield assists.
Kanas led the team in RBI, with 36, and hit .276 with 45 hits, 26 runs, nine doubles, two triple and two homers. Kanas also stole nine bases in 2013 without a caught stealing and was named to the Capital One Academic All-District First Team.
Aaron Aleman returns as one of the top starters for the Bulldogs, as the junior tied for the team lead in victories with nine among a pitching staff that led the ASC with 3.05 team ERA. He went 9-5 with a 2.94 ERA and 59 strikeouts with a team-high three complete games in 82 2/3 innings of work. Senior Kellen McGriff returns as one of the team's top relievers, but could also see time in the starting rotation as the Bulldogs sport a very deep bullpen heading into the 2014 campaign. Watch Texas Lutheran Baseball Media Days
Centenary College comes in third in the preseason poll with 37 total votes as the Gents finished the SCAC runner-up a season ago. Head Coach Mike Diaz enters his 10th season at Centenary and fourth at the helm of the program. He was named 2013 SCAC Co-Coach-of-the-Year, along with Trinity's Scannell.
The Gents did lose some key players from last year's squad that sported a 3.55 team ERA and a .300 team batting average, but return plenty of firepower to make another run at the conference crown. Junior pitcher Layton Tromba returns to the mound coming off a season that saw the left-hander post a 6-4 win-loss mark with a 2.83 ERA in 86 innings of work - good enough to earn him All-SCAC recognition.
Sophomore pither Paul Arcement, last season's Co-Freshman-of-the-Year, finished the regular season with an earned run average of 4.63 and his 22 strikeouts were the fourth-most on the Centenary staff.
Centenary lost some of its top offensive talent from a year ago, but does return senior outfielder Nic Parrott, who hit .295 with five doubles and three triples to go with 22 RBIs and 30 runs scored last season. Watch Centenary Baseball Media Days
The University of Dallas checks in at fourth with 22 votes after finishing third in the conference a season ago. Head Coach Fraser Holmes is in his fifth season in Irving and has led the Crusaders to the SCAC Tournament each of the last two years.
The Dallas offense looks to be powerful in 2014 with All-SCAC seniors Alex Thornton and Mark Carlson returning as well as junior Trevor Keele. Keele, an All-Region and All-SCAC selection in 2013, posted a .336 batting average in his first season with the Crusaders. In 43 games played, he contributed 50 hits from 175 plate appearances, 32 runs batted in, 10 doubles, six home runs, four sacrifice flies and two triples. He also boasted a .440 slugging percentage and a .408 on-base percentage.
Thornton was in the Top 10 of many SCAC categories a year ago as he played in 43 games (first), hit three home runs (fourth), 13 doubles (sixth), two triples (sixth), 67 total bases (eighth), and .450 slugging percentage (10th). Carlson hit .281 with six doubles, 15 RBIs, and 20 runs scores. He also stole nine bases.
Joshua Crapps will lead a pitching staff that struggled at times last season. The sophomore right-hander boasted a 4-2 record and a 3.53 ERA as a first-year player in 2013. Watch Dallas Baseball Media Days
Southwestern University was picked to finish fifth in the SCAC with 18 votes. The Pirates struggled a year ago under first-year head coach R.J. Thomas, but Thomas is no stranger to manufacturing SCAC turnarounds. After inheriting a Hendrix College program that had never had a winning season in its time in the conference, he led the Warriors to a SCAC title in his third season and hopes for a similar leap of good fortune for his Pirates in 2014.
The offense will be anchored by senior Zach Lynch who has stepped up as one of the leaders for the Pirates this spring. Lynch will help anchor the infield and the clubhouse as his 13 RBIs are tied for the most among returning players along with junior Will Burks – who will patrol the outfield. The Pirates will look to these upperclassmen as leaders as much competition remains to fill the remaining offensive positions.
A couple of bullpen contributors from a year ago look to step into a starting role in 2014. Carl Mueller led the Pirates with 58 strikeouts last season, finished with a team-low 5.14 ERA and held opponents to a team best .277 batting average. Colton Seeton made a team-high 22 appearances and finished with 24 strikeouts in 26.1 innings of work. Watch Southwestern Baseball Media Days
Austin College, a team that finished fourth a season ago in the SCAC, has been selected to finish sixth in 2014 with 14 votes. Head Coach James Rise, who enters his fourth season as head coach of the 'Roos, looks to push the program to another SCAC postseason appearance.
Senior Austin Vaughan was an All-SCAC selection in 2013 after batting .319, with 19 runs batted in and 15 stolen bases. Fellow senior Colt Herron also returns to Austin College after hitting .280 with three homers and 21 runs batted last season while also earning three victories on the mound.
Junior Marshall Korn, who earned All-SCAC honors a year ago, will be one of the returners on the mound. The right-hander earned three victories with three complete games and an earned run average of 4.50 with a team-best 34 strikeouts last season. Watch Austin College Baseball Media Days
The other newcomer in the SCAC, Schreiner University, rounds out the SCAC Predicted Order of Finish as the Mountaineers received 13 votes. Head Coach Ryan Brisbin enters his third season in Kerrville and hopes to continue the team's upward movement in the win column.
Junior catcher Chase Valdez comes off an excellent season where he earned All-ASC and All-Region honors and finished with the second-highest batting average in the ASC at .399. His 55 hits last season were just two short of the school record. Valdez also tied the school record for triples in a season with four and his 27 RBI led the team.
Sophomore Mikey Garcia will also look to make an impact in his second season. A year ago, Garcia hit .273 with five doubles, one triple, and one home run to go along with 16 RBIs and 19 runs scored.
Pitching proved to be a struggle at times for the Mountaineers, but top reliever Colton Mendenhall, a senior, returns to lead the staff as competition still continues for the final rotation slots. Watch Schreiner Baseball Media Days
The 2014 season gets underway this weekend. Click here to view the composite 2014 schedule.
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|2014 SCAC Baseball Preseason Poll|
||No. of Votes||2013 SCAC||2013 Overall|
|1. Trinity University
|2. Texas Lutheran University*||41 (1)||N/A||33-14|
|3. Centenary College||37||15-5||26-15|
|4. University of Dallas
|5. Southwestern University
|6. Austin College
|7. Schreiner University*
Note: First-place votes (in parentheses) are worth seven points, second place worth six points, on down to 7th-place votes being worth one point. Coaches voted for order of finish 1-7.
*Schreiner and Texas Lutheran competed in the American Southwest Conference last season