Mideast Regional Preview

By Jim Dixon

Derek Hug continues to add accolades for his play as he enters his final season for the Student Princes.
Heidelberg athletics photo

Move over Marietta, there are new kids in town. Once a reliable path to the D-III World Series for the powerhouse teams like Adrian, Marietta and Wooster, the best of the PAC and AMCC are starting to make their mark as parity has arrived in the middle of the D-III nation.

Thomas More is the best of the new guard. Left out of the playoffs in 2015, the Saints have the motivation for a World Series run. Besides the Saints, Washington and Jefferson, Earlham, and Rose-Hulman have teams that will compete with the best in the Mideast.

Despite the threats to their prominence at the top of the regional standings, it is the old guard that is favored in 2016. Marietta always seems to overcome graduation losses, Wooster will pile up the wins, and Adrian's path to a regional berth is well trod. Heidelberg, Ohio Northern, and Baldwin Wallace will have their say on who takes the regional crown in May with the victor a favorite to bring home the Walnut and Bronze.

New Faces

Jake Sabol, Alma: Jake Sabol became the 28th head coach in the 115-year history of Alma. Sabol, who served as a pitching coach for the Scots under former head coach Scott Kingston during the 2013 campaign, comes to Alma after serving as the director of scouting for Prep Baseball Report for Michigan. Sabol played collegiately at Central Michigan and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. "I am truly thankful for the opportunity to lead the Alma College baseball program," Sabol said. "It is an honor to be part of such a prestigious institution. Having been here back in 2012-13, I know that Alma College and the Alma community is a great place to call home and I am excited to join the Alma College family."

Liberty University was one of Matt Royer's stops on his way to becoming head coach at Grove City.
Grove City athletics photo

Matt Royer, Grove City: Grove City named Matt Royer as its interim head coach for the 2016 season. Royer's collegiate coaching career began in 1989 at Harper College. In 1990, he took over as the head coach at D-IIIWheaton (Ill.) for three years before moving to D-II Kutztown and then to D-I Liberty University. Most recently, Royer served as head baseball coach at Twin Valley (Pa.) High School from 2009 to 2014. "We are very excited about the addition of Coach Royer to the Grove City College athletic department," athletic director Todd Gibson said. "He brings tremendous collegiate coaching experience as well as an unquestioned passion for the game of baseball."

Dustin Glant, Anderson: Dustin Glant was introduced as the new head coach at Anderson over the summer. Glant brings 12 years of playing and coaching experience to Anderson, including six years as a pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks minor league farm system. "I feel very blessed to be chosen the next head baseball coach at Anderson University,” said Coach Glant. “ I look forward to becoming part of a faith based campus community.  The coaching staff is anxious to begin fall ball practices with our team.”

Conference Preview

In 2015, David Lemley pitched the Red Hawks into the Championship Round of the Mideast Regional.
La Roche athletics photo

Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference: The AMCC was never been considered a title threat but that has changed with the 2015 Mideast Regional Championship game. The contest featured a rising AMCC program in La Roche and former AMCC conference mate, Frostburg State. Expect any team coming out of the AMCC to be a contender for one of eight spots in Appleton.

La Roche head coach Chase Rowe was rewarded with regional and national coaching awards for leading the Red Hawks to a program best 33 wins in 2015 and one win from a D-III World Series appearance. Gone are four of the best in the AMCC from the La Roche roster but the ranks are not empty of talent. The offense will find leadership from outfielder Luis Navedo (.339, 9 2B, 32 RBI). Despite losing 15 wins and seven complete games from the rotation, Tanner Wilt (4-1, 1.91 ERA, 63 SO), Regis Sauers (5-2, 4.44 ERA, 24 SO), and David Lemley (3-3, 4.34 ERA, 28 SO) form a core that will keep La Roche at the top of the AMCC.

The battle for second place will be between Penn State-Behrend and Mount Aloysius. The Lions of PS-Behrend missed the NCAA regionals and went on to take the ECAC South West Championship with a sweep of Waynesburg.  Nine seniors saw their last action in 2015 but the youth movement has the Lions program on an upswing. Five All-AMCC honorees are back with battery mates P Jack Herzing (8-1, 2.31 ERA, 77 SO) and C Brian Bohman (.368, 4 HR, 35 RBI) leading the way. Joining Bohman on offense is Alex Margraf (.351, 10 2B, 22 RBI) and John Hlarinka (.368, 10 2B, 25 RBI).

Connor Bowie was named to the All-Canadian baseball team for the second time in December.
Mount Aloysius athletics photo

Three years from a program record 26 wins, Mount Aloysius is primed to make a serious AMCC playoff run. Twelve returning seniors bring a wealth of experience, including AMCC Player of the Year Connor Bowie (.358, 8 HR, 35 RBI). A key loss on the pitching staff is Derrick Capiak but Daniel Resavy (3-1, 5.55 ERA, 35 SO) is ready for ace duties for the Mounties. The relief corps will be headed by Brady Wright (4-2, 3.41 ERA, 28 SO, 3 SV) and Rodney Patterson (2-2, 3.60 ERA, 20 SO).

Pitt-Greenburg is expected to round out the top four but will see some competition from up and coming teams down the AMCC standings. Penn State-Altoona should show some improvements in the conference standings as a trio of sophomores are expeted to make an impact in 2016. Dan Dwyer (.321, 2 2B, 27 RBI) and Jim Shonberg (.302, 4 2B, 14 RBI) are the top returnees from the position players. Luke Stano (3-3, 5.14 ERA, 16 SO) will join junior Mike Marley (3-3, 4.25, 29 SO) in the rotation. Medaille comes into 2016 with a solid lineup with Kyle Powell (.415, 8 2B, 25 RBI) and Dan Luppens (.396,17 2B, 31 RBI) but here are questions about whether a young pitching staff will keep the team in games. Steven Hostinsky (4-3, 4.27 ERA, 23 S0) will lead a rotation of sophomores and juniors.

Heartland Athletic Conference: The road to the HCAC title will run through Terre Haute as the Engineers of Rose-Hulman were tabbed as the the preseason favorite. Following Rose-Hulman in the HCAC preseason poll, Earlham nudged Manchester as the choice for runner up.

Rose-Hulman is the favorite to capture the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title in 2016.
Rose-Hulman athletics photo

Rose-Hulman is well poised to make a College World Series run. The Engineers return the HCAC Pitcher of the Year and two All-HCAC first-team members from last season’s squad that is heavy with experience. Senior pitcher Karson Nixon (5-2, 1.58 ERA, 64 SO) who earned the conference’s top pitching honor a year ago, is just one part of a rotation that is dominated by battle tested seniors. Upperclassmen dominate the relief staff as well and nobody is better that closer Alec McNally (4-1, 0.46 ERA, 12 SO, 6 SV), a D3baseball.com preseason All-American. Second baseman Caleb Kissel (.340, 8 2B, 29 RBI) and third baseman Donnie Waters (.390, 7 2B, 17 RBI) are part of an all senior infield that will put runs on board and keep them off with defense. Rose-Hulman underachieved last year but will need to keep the end prize in mind as they navigate a tough non-conference schedule before starting HCAC play.

After a fourth place finish and a school record for wins in the season, Earlham will be looking to improve in both categories. For the Quakers to win their first HCAC baseball crown, they will need All-HCAC first-team pitcher Bryce Rainey (6-1, 4.20 ERA, 29 SO) and Howie Smith (4-2, 4.66 ERA, 45 SO) to turn in quality starts. Providing some punch at the plate and speed on the bases is junior Brennan Laird (.346, 9 2B, 5 3B, 14 SB). The Quakers will play their first conference series against Rose-Hulman in late March and will get an early look at their chances for a HCAC title.

Tailur Szarenski hit .370 for the Spartans in his sophomore year.
Manchester athletics photo

Third in the HCAC a year ago, Manchester is expected to be back there at the end of the season. Manchester returns two All-HCAC first-team members from last season’s team in catcher Elliot Ford (.359, 28 R, 24 RBI) and first baseman Tailur Szarenski (.370, 4 HR, 45 RBI). Sophomore Taylor Kopplin (4-2, 3.36, 50 SO, 3 SV) will be taking his spot in the pitching rotation as well as providing closer duties out of the pen. Expect the Spartans to make it 18 HCAC tournament appearances in the last 20 years.

Anderson and Franklin each received one first place vote from the preseason coaches’ poll. The strength of the both programs will be their pitching staffs. New Anderson head coach Dustin Glant will have a trio of returning starters in Jake Eaton (6-1, 2.88 ERA, 52 SO), Ben Yoder (7-0, 3.03 ERA, 42 SO), and Cameron Dotson (4-2, 3.61 ERA, 23 SO). For Franklin, lefty Hayden Cleveland (3-5, 5.07 ERA, 53 SO) and righty Christian Sullivan (4-4, 4.82, 39 SO) combined for six complete games in 2015.

Michigan Intercollegiate Athletics Association: The MIAA has become the stepping stone for Adrian to the NCAA regionals but back in the standings, Hope, Calvin, and Kalamazoo all have designs in dethroning the Bulldogs as kings of the MIAA.

Jeff Gertley lead the Adrian Bulldogs in slugging percentage (.723) in 2015.
Adrian athletics photo

Adrian won their seven straight MIAA title and eight of the last ten but 2015 ended in disappointment with an 0-2 finish in the NCAA Mideast Regional. With strong pitching: Jordan Frayer (7-2, 2.40 ERA, 42 SO) and Tommy Parsons (8-1, 3.10 ERA, 28 SO); with a top notch closer: Collin Korte (4-1, 3.15 ERA, 35 SO, 5 SV); and an experienced lineup: Ryan Dorow (.383, 13 2B, 38 RBI) and Jeff Gertley (.351, 18 2B, 48 RBI) - an eighth straight MIAA title is in the cards.

Calvin finished second to the Bulldogs in 2015 and on graduation day saw the departure of their two top hitters and their top hitter. The strength of the 2016 squad is an offense that set a record for hits last season. Offensive stars Colton Wolfe (.345, 6 HR, 31 RBI) and Patrick Avila (.303, 6 2B, 24 RBI) are back for their junior year. Ryan Stewart (4-1, 2.35 ERA) remains on a staff that will start young this season and will need the backup of a Calvin's strong bullpen to pick up the starters when they find themselves in trouble.

The core of the 2015 squad returns and Kalamazoo will look to improve on their third place finish in the MIAA. With Ryan Orr (7-3, 2.19, 53 SO) on the mound, with Jake Clark (.370, 8 2B, 21 RBI) and Ian Kobernick (.384, 14 2B, 26 RBI) swinging the bats, expect Kzoo to make it three straight MIAA conference tounament appearances. Top hitters, Brady VanderWeele (.35, 13 2B, 30 RBI) and Ryan Konkle (.375, 12 2B, 33 RBI), return to back Hope's chances for a MIAA crown. Jake Chipka (5-3, 5.89, 26 SO) headlines a pitching staff that saw just one starter graduate. The Dutchmen should have enough to return to the conference tournament.

The basement of the MIAA standings consists of Trine, Albion, Alma and Olivet. Trine's top pitcher, Andy Farrell (4-4, 4.55 ERA, 37 SO), is back as is their top closer, Jake Weimer (3-1, 3.12 ERA, 11 SP, 4 SV), with hopes of turning a sub .500 record in 2015 into a winning tally in 2016. Albion will be led by 2015 MIAA Player of the Year, Michael Fischbach (.409, 20 2B, 40 RBI, 22 SB) and has a core of sophomores that should pay dividends in 2016 and the next few years. Alma, coming off their best record since the turn of the century, will look for Doug Walters (.324, 7 2b, 17 RBI) to keep the upward momentum going.

Ohio Athletic Conference: In one of the toughest conferences in the nation, nothing will change in 2016. Twelfth ranked Heidelberg is favored to come out on top but it would surprise nobody if No. 19 Baldwin Wallace, No. 24 Marietta or Ohio Northern come out of the 2016 season with the conference title.

With the departure of Derek Hendrixson, Adam Manner (pictured) will be the ace of the Heidelberg pitching rotation.
Heidelberg athletics photo

Heidelberg will feature power and speed on offense and nobody typifies this than 2016 D3baseball.com preseason All-American Derek Hug. Already a two-time All-American and CoSIDA Academic All-American, Hug (.376, 13 HR, 45 RBI, 21 SB) is one of a handful of favorites for Player of the Year entering this season. The pitching staff returns a majority of the innings pitched, with the exception of Derek Hendrixson who transferred to a D-I program. The staff is led by Adam Manner (8-1, 2.46 ERA, 46 SO). Head coach Chad Fitzgerald has all the pieces for a National Championship season.

Ohio Northern matches the 'Berg in experience with 7 of 9 position players back to go along with the pitchers responsible for all 30 wins last year. With good players up and down the lineup, Nick Eltzroth stands out. A .364 hitter with 26 RBI, Eltzroth (7-3, 3.41 ERA, 51 SO) will share ace duties with Alex Crabtree (6-0, 3.20 ERA, 37 RBI). The only question for the Polar Bears is who will patrol the outfield as two All-OAC players graduated last spring If a position player blossoms into a star, Ohio Northern could find itself making a deep run in this year’s postseason.

Baldwin Wallace will play on Fisher Field in 2016, named in honor of long-time head coach Dr. Bob Fisher.
Baldwin Wallace athletics photo

Baldwin Wallace enters the season looking to earn a third straight berth in the NCAA Division III National Tournament. Fifth-year head coach Brian Harrison has led the Yellow Jackets to a school-record number of victories each of the past four years, including a 30-20 mark a year ago. The 2016 version of the Yellow Jackets features 12 veterans who saw action in the field and 13 pitchers who took the mound in varsity games. Leading the offense are the top three hitters from 2015 in Cole Nieto (.378, 15 2B, 40 RBI), Mark Zimmerman (.379, 4 HR, 42 RBI), Hunter Handel (.353, 6 HR, 49 RBI). The pitching staff will be led by All-OAC left-hander Evan Lovick (5-1, 3.74 ERA, 28 SO) and career save-leader Brandon Cichocki (1-1, 3.74 ERA, 26 SO, 5 SV). With a top recruiting class, Baldwin Wallace should play a lot of games in the postseason.

When you lose virtually the entire infield to graduation, your chances are not good to repeat as OAC champions. Marietta head coach Brian Brewer has always seemed to come up with an answer and end the season on a high note. For the Pioneers, it will be the pitching staff that will deliver the wins early in the season. Topping an experience pitching staff is Christian Herstine (6-5, 1.78 ERA, 76 SO). Helping solidify the new infield will be All-OAC second baseman Chris Petrucci (.327, 4 HR, 26 RBI). Get to Marietta early since the team will see steady improvement and could win the OAC Tournament from a low qualifying position in the OAC standings.

John Carroll finished 2015 in a four-way tie for second place in the OAC and enough tiebreaker wins to earn a spot in the four team end of the season tournament. They return their top hitter in Tyler Gentile (.395, 17 2B, 43 RBI) but had to say goodbye to All-American pitcher Andrew Doring. The Blue Streak will need to find another pitching ace like Doring to return to the postseason. A surprise team could be the Capital Crusaders. Capital has a lot of returning guys with a ton of experience like Jake Foley (.304, 14 SB, 20 RBI) and their top three starting pitchers. This returning class has given the 2016 squad high expectations for the upcoming season.

North Coast Athletic Conference: Optimism is not lacking with the Wooster Scots and last season's disappointing end is in the past. The Scots are the overwhelming favorite to capture the NCAC crown in 2016. The path to the playoffs for the rest of the conference was shown by Oberlin in 2015 - upset Wooster in the NCAC tournament.

Jamie Lackner was named to the 2016 D3baseball.com preseason All-American team.
Wooster athletics photo

Never saw that coming. Wooster racks up 36 wins and gets upset by Oberlin in the conference tournament just to see their season end when all the playoff bids were passed out. A poor SOS was the problem and this should not be an issue in 2016 as the Scots' play three 2015 regional teams in their first eight games of their non-conference schedule. Michael Houdek (8-1, 2.64 ERA, 49 SO) returns to the mound for his junior year and six .300 hitters will fill the 2016 lineup, led by Jamie Lackner (.420, 17 HR, 16 2B). With speed and power up and down the lineup, look for Wooster to get back to the playoffs in 2016.

Allegheny is loaded for 2016, and beyond. Third baseman Joe Killian (.372, 16 SB, 43 RBI) is the only senior in a lineup that brings back a majority of their starters. Add a pitching staff that was 12-4 in 2015 and you have a recipe for success. The good news is that the team is set for 2016 and 2017 on the bump as Chase Boyer (3-1), Rob Julian (3-1), Cory Keenan (4-0), and Pat Orr (2-2) are all juniors. An early April contest with Wooster could decide the NCAC regular season title.

Ohio Wesleyan comes into 2016 with the best pitcher in the NCAC. 2015 Pitcher and Newcomer of the Year Kevin Zulio (7-1, 3.52 ERA, 44 SO) is the ace of a staff that could cause problems for their opponents. And don’t sleep on the OWU offense as DH Devin Van Winkle (.352, 8 HR, 47 RBI) returns with Steven Moore (.341, 2 HR, 33 RBI) and Aaron Caputo (.378, 3 HR, 31 RBI) swinging hot bats as well.

Oberlin took a back end finish to squeak into the NCAC playoffs and proceed to upset Wooster and play deep into the New York Regional. Duplicating this feat will be difficult as all four All-NCAC players on Oberlin's squad have graduated. With just five starters back in 2016, the door will be open for another team to be fitted for glass slippers. One team to keep an eye on in is Denison. Denison will be led by two sophomores in 2016. On the mound will be Zack Huarte (5-2, 2.77 ERA) with 2B Jack Blanchard (.326, 10 RBI) anchoring the Big Red offense.

President Athletic Conference: Washington and Jefferson is looking to celebrate a Regional championship on their home field and Thomas More is looking just for a ticket to the playoffs. Throw in Thiel and you have three teams that could find themselves at W&J's home park in the Mideast Regional. Our pick to represent the PAC in the regional round is Thomas More.

Donovan Pouge, a 2015 All-American designated hitter, will move to first base in 2016 for the Saints.
Thomas More athletics photo

Thomas More has unfinished business in 2016. Left out of the playoffs in 2015 with a 30 win season in the books has left an experienced team hungry for a chance at a National Championship run. Heading the returning players for the Saints is D3baseball.com preseason All-American Donovan Pouge. Pouge, the 2015 PAC Player of the Year batted .450 with 13 home runs and 55 RBI. He will be joined in the lineup by Ben Kenning (.402, 2 SB, 19 RBI) and Ben Laumann (.352, 9 SB, 21 RBI). The pitching staff will be a mix of upperclassmen like Brandon Humphrey (6-1, 1.95 ERA, 46 SO) and underclassmen like Brandon Eliadis (4-1, 3.65 ERA, 17 SO). This is just the right mix to earn a playoff bid.

Washington and Jefferson kept Thomas More out of the playoffs when they won their 10th PAC championship title in 2015. Their reward was a chance to win a regional title on their home turf. A home celebration was not in the cards but as host of the 2016 regional, the Presidents will get another shot. Starting pitcher Riley Groves (9-2, 2.17 ERA, 45 SO) will headline the rotation and when a little help is needed, Tim Mulvey (3-1, 3.83,25 SO, 3 SV) will be available in the bullpen. Outfielder Nich Vento (.369, 12 32B, 33 RBI) is back for another year to provide some offensive spark.

Thiel has plenty of experience back in 2016 despite the graduation of three seniors off their 2015 squad. Matt Elko (8-3, 3.07 ERA, 81 SO) and Jaden Nazicka (7-1, 3.38 ERA, 20 SO) are part of a deep pitching staff that could get the Tomcats back into the conference tournament with an eye on the PAC title. Thiel will not have to rely on the pitching staff as they have plenty gas in the offensive engine. When he is not pitching Elko (.321, 29 R, 18 RBI) will be joined by Trent Smith (.418, 5 HR, 38 RBI), Trent Mosley (.337, 7 HR, 29 RBI), and Brian Genco (.361, 6 SB, 29 RBI) to put runs on the board.

Competition for the final PAC tournament spot will be fierce. Grove City has a new experience coach that will need a couple years to develop a competitive program. Waynesburg has the Co-PAC Pitcher of the Year, Brian Resnik (9-3, 2.72 ERA, 86 SO) back for another season and St. Vincent has Eddie Kilkeary (.436, 6 HR, 34 RBI) making an impact for the Bearcats.

Independents: Case Western Reserve won ten fewer games in 2015 than the previous year and will be looking to stop the slide this year. Case will have a trio of seniors that will be the key to taking steps back into the national conversation. Starting pitcher Neal Krentz (3-1, 2.84 ERA, 35 SO) and reliever Connor Tagg (4-1, 2.79 ERA, 26 SO) will have to shine on the mound while Josh Neal (.309, 7 2B, 24 RBI) will have to do the same at the plate.