The 2017 CAC baseball season will likely feature another tight race for the conference crown, as evidenced by four CAC teams receiving first-place votes in a preseason vote among the conference head coaches. Salisbury, Frostburg State, Marymount, and Christopher Newport each received at least one first-place nod in the 2017 CAC Baseball Preseason Poll.
Defending-champion Salisbury was chosen as the preseason favorite with six first-place votes and 77 points. Frostburg State (69 points, 1 first-place vote) edged out Marymount (68 points, 2 first-place votes) by one point for second place, while CNU also garnered a first-place vote and landed fourth in the poll with 61 points.
Mary Washington (41 points) and Penn State Harrisburg (39 points) completed the top six in the preseason poll. Wesley was slightly behind Penn State Harrisburg in seventh with 37 points, followed by York (29 points), St. Mary's (16 points), and Southern Virginia (13 points).
Salisbury is ranked in both the D3baseball.com and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason national polls. The Sea Gulls are No. 24 in the D3baseball.com poll and No. 30 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll. Frostburg State is receiving votes in both polls, while CNU is also receiving votes from D3baseball.com
For the second straight year, both Salisbury and Frostburg State represented the CAC in NCAA Baseball Tournament last spring. Salisbury earned the CAC's automatic bid for the 13th time in program history with a victory over Frostburg State in the CAC championship, while the Bobcats secured an at-large NCAA bid.
The 2017 season kicks off in early February, with Southern Virginia slated to open things up on Feb. 3. The majority of CAC teams begin non-conference play in mid-February, with the CAC regular season starting on March 11. The six-team CAC Tournament is set for April 18 and 20-22, with the champion earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
2017 CAC Baseball Preseason Poll
|1. Salisbury (6 first-place votes)||77 points|
|2. Frostburg State (1 first-place vote)||69 points|
|3. Marymount (2 first-place votes)||68 points|
|4. Christopher Newport (1 first-place vote)||61 points|
|5. Mary Washington||41 points|
|6. Penn State Harrisburg||39 points|
|7. Wesley||37 points|
|8. York||29 points|
|9. St. Mary's||16 points|
|10. Southern Virginia||13 points|
Below is a team-by-team breakdown of what to expect this season:
Under the direction of John Harvell for the 17th season, CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT is receiving votes in the preseason D3baseball.com top 25. The Captains will face a rigorous non-conference schedule that includes matchups with four teams ranked in the top 12, headlined by a February 25 matchup with top-ranked SUNY Cortland in Newport News. The offense returns seven starters, led by senior All-State infielder Keith Roberts, who hit .357 with 14 extra-base hits and 28 RBI last season. On the mound, Michael Thomas (4-1, 3.29 ERA) and Caleb Myers (4-1, 3.34 ERA, 24 appearances) are back to help anchor a veteran staff.
FROSTBURG STATE heads into the 2017 campaign with plenty of momentum on its side following back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances that included a World Series trip in 2015. The Bobcats have hosted the CAC Tournament in each of the last two years and 10th-year head coach Guy Robertson is bringing back a roster full of talent and depth. For the second-straight season, junior pitcher Greg Schneider has been tabbed as a D3baseball.com Preseason All-American and he has posted 16 wins and 155 strikeouts over his first two years. Devin Bell returns for senior campaign after finishing seventh in Division III with 13 home runs.
MARY WASHINGTON enters the season looking toward a successful season, with returning starters Thomas Weaver, Stephen Johnston, Brian Burns, David Slupek and Kyle Bynum returning to the lineup. The Eagles will look to veterans Jonathan Truba, Hank Biggs, and the return of injured starter Cole Jarvis on the mound. Newcomers of note include Christian Hague and Mark Smith.
MARYMOUNT returns the entire crew but two to graduation, including both 2016 All-CAC pitchers Collin Bazemore and Dylan Gerdts. Entering the fourth year of the program, under CAC and ECAC Coach of the Year Frank Leoni, the Saints take on another competitive schedule that boasts several preseason ranked opponents such as Salisbury, Shenandoah, Randolph-Macon, and top-seeded SUNY Cortland.
PENN STATE HARRISBURG, led by fifth-year head coach Ryan Bown, will look to build upon last season's 19-32 (9-9 CAC) record and 6th-place conference finish. The rotation will be anchored by returning juniors Mark Artley and Bobby Patterson, who combined for 11 of the teams' wins in 2016. Tom Denniston returns for his senior season as one of the club's more experienced leaders. He's likely to split his talents behind the dish and in the outfield. Also, look for sophomore Scott Angstadt Jr. to try and pick up where he left off last year, when he finished with a team-leading .341 batting average. The Lions' first game is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18, when they travel to Lynchburg to take on the Hornets. Their home opener is scheduled for Wednesday, March 1 vs. Messiah.
ST. MARY'S will be guided by first-year head coach Bernard Stratchko in 2017. Stratchko is very familiar with the CAC as he spent five years (2012-2016) as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Frostburg State. During his time with the Bobcats they captured their first-ever NCAA Division III Mideast Regional and made their first appearance in the NCAA Division III College World Series in 2015. The Seahawks' roster will feature nine returning seniors who are looking forward to the upcoming season under coach Stratchko. Seahawks are also bringing in three mid-years who are all local to the St. Mary's county area.
SALISBURY enters the 2017 season with the No. 24 preseason ranking by D3baseball.com. Coach Troy Brohawn will look to Tom LaBriola as the leader of the 2017 team. LaBriola was selected as the captain for the Sea Gulls, the first under Brohawn's tenure. LaBriola along with Pete Grasso headline a returning corps of players that will aim to help the Sea Gulls capture their 14th CAC Championship and a return trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament and World Series. Some other key returners will be senior pitcher Jeff Oster who will look to continue his success from 2016 as well as third baseman Jack Barry. Barry turned in an impressive freshman season starting every game for the maroon and gold.
SOUTHERN VIRGINIA enters the 2016 season with hopes to improve on last years performance. The Knights return 14 players, including the majority of their starting lineup. Starting pitcher Seth Burris and outfielder Ryan Saunders, who was second on the team last season with a .328 hitting average, will be key players to help the Knights look for their first CAC playoff bid.
WESLEY returns a solid nucleus of players from a 20-win campaign in 2016. Returners in the field are highlighted by senior outfielder Trey Mears and junior infielder Chris Seibert. Seibert tied for fifth in the CAC with eight homers and 45 runs batted in. Seibert also hit .397, good for sixth-best in the CAC. Mears led the CAC with 31 stolen bases on 36 attempts and also knocked 13 doubles and 36 runs batted in. On the mound, a pair of five-game winners return for the Wolverines. Juniors Sam Meck and Cody Simet look to head the rotation heading into the 2017 season.
YORK enters the season healthy as they look to get back into the CAC Tournament after missing out on the tournament the last two years. Head coach Mike Scappa welcomes back a strong core of position players while the pitching staff looks to be healthy after suffering a number of injuries that hampered production in 2016. Back to front the rotation is 2014 CAC Rookie of the Year Elliot Mortimer as he will be the Spartans' top starter. Senior Randy Frankenfield and junior Joel Kenney give York a solid top three in the rotation. A number of sophomores give York unprecedented pitching depth. The every day lineup features seniors Logan Countryman and Mike Moore as they will both be Spartan captains. Juniors Collin Crowell and Zach Hossler will hold down the middle of the infield while other returning starters include Seth Brosius and Christian Bilan.