Mideast Regional Preview

Jamie Lackner, left, of Wooster, and Tommy Crowl of Marietta, are key names you should know and will hear more about in 2017.
Wooster, Marietta athletics file photos 


By Pat Coleman

La Roche finished its 2016 season in Appleton. Will the Redhawks have the firepower to do it again?
Photo by Larry Radloff, d3photography.com 

If you're a Marietta fan and can't stand Wooster, or a Wooster fan and can't stand Marietta, then you are not going to like what follows. Fact of the matter is, these perennial contenders will do so again, and both with teams that are still relatively young and will continue to sustain the momentum of each program.

As with the other regional previews, we'll introduce you to the new head coaches across the Mideast Region, spotlight some key games or series to watch, and then go team by team, conference by conference, through all 59 teams that compete in the Mideast Region for baseball.

New Faces

Drew Brantley and Mark Calder, Anderson: The December departure of Dustin Glant left the Ravens with the unusual co-coaching arrangement. Brantley was a student assistant in 2015 and a grad assistant last year, while Calder was the director of baseball operations. They are the third (and fourth) coaches for the Ravens in three seasons.

Blake Allen, DePauw: Allen returns to DePauw, where he played two years of baseball and was an assistant coach for two seasons. Since then, however, he has spent five years (over two separate stints) as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, while also spending seven years as a D-I assistant at Western Kentucky. The move puts a former Tiger in charge of the program, which had been coached by a Wabash grad. 

Matt Royer, Grove City: An interim coach last season, Royer was given the job on a long-term basis after he led the Wolverines to a 27-17 mark, including the ECAC Southwest tournament title. Royer has previously been a Division III head coach at Wheaton (Ill.) and also coached 10 years at Division II Kutztown, leading them to the Division II World Series in 2001 and 2002. He has a 497-383 record as head coach.

Drew Fittry, Hilbert: Fittry was promoted from within after the Hawks tied the school record for wins, although that record is just 11, as Hilbert finished 11-21 last season. He has been the team’s pitching coach for the past two seasons. Last season, the Hawks set a program record for best ERA, at 5.62.

Andy Merchant, Olivet: Merchant coached Lansing Community College for the previous three seasons, including bringing the team to the regional postseason tournament with a 30-win season in 2016. Merchant played in the MIAA, including pitching for Alma’s 1999 conference title team.

RJ Barnard, Penn State-Altoona: Barnard was named interim head coach after the retirement of Joe Piotti. Barnard played second base for Piotti, who had been the only head coach since the program was re-established in 1997, and was an assistant coach for the past two seasons.

It must have been difficult for Wabash alumni to see Jake Martin in black and gold. This probably feels better.
Wabash athletics photo

Zach Foster, Pitt-Bradford: Foster replaces his former coach, Brett Butler, who will focus full-time on his duties as athletic director. A former pitcher for the Panthers, a draft pick and six-year minor leaguer, Foster was the top assistant last season and was also the strength and conditioning coach.

Scott Adams, Pitt-Greensburg: Adams was promoted to the top job after spending four years as Anthony Williams’ top assistant. "I am extremely honored to be the next head baseball coach at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. It's always easy to say you got this opportunity through hard work, but in this case it was the amazing effort put forth by our players over the past four seasons that has given me a chance to fulfill a lifelong goal."

Zack Getsee, Transylvania: Getsee has seen success first-hand as an assistant at Webster the past five seasons, a time span which includes the Gorloks’ three trips to the Division III World Series. "My vision for Transylvania baseball is to build a program that competes for conference, regional, and national championships year in and year out," said Getsee.

Jake Martin, Wabash: Martin is the Wabash grad who was head coach at DePauw for the past six seasons. A 2003 Little Giants alumnus, Martin was 161-138 with DePauw. "I'm extremely excited to return to Wabash," Martin said. "I feel very fortunate to be given this opportunity. Wabash is a great school; it is a place where you can challenge yourself academically and athletically."

Brian McGee, Wittenberg: The third new coach in the NCAC comes from Lake Erie, where he was coach while the Storm moved from Division III to Division II. McGee won 187 games there over nine seasons, including a high-water mark of 32 in 2014.

Games to Watch

We're going to assume you can find the important conference games on the schedule. Here are some of the key non-conference games.

Feb. 25-26: Case Western Reserve at Shenandoah. This scheduled three-game series in Winchester, Va., pits a 2016 playoff team with a preseason Top 25 opponent.

March 12-13, 16-17: Marietta at Snowbird Classic, Florida. The Pioneers have St. John Fisher at noon on the 12th, Webster the following afternoon, Keystone on the morning of the 16th and Adrian on the afternoon of the 17th.

April 5: Marietta at Wooster. This midweek game comes after the Oberlin series for Wooster, so the Scots might have a prime arm to throw in this game, which features two perennial regional participants. (Marietta has only two-game series the previous weekend and a game vs. Thomas More on April 2, so the Pioneers could be pretty well stocked as well.)

April 29-30: DePauw at Wabash. No, not a non-conference game, but worth mentioning for multiple reasons aside from the NCAC race. This clash of archrivals (with new, albeit familiar faces at head coach) caps the conference season for both squads. DePauw swept a four-game series last season and won three of four in 2015.

May 3: Frostburg State at Washington and Jefferson. Assuming this late-season single game isn’t a casualty of weather or previous weather-related postponements, this should be an interesting test for both teams as Frostburg awaits Selection Sunday and W&J prepares for the PAC tournament.

Conference previews

La Roche certainly brightened things up in Appleton last season, but will face a tougher challenge in trying to return to the Division III World Series.
Photo by Pat Coleman, D3sports.com 

Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference: La Roche (43-12) brings back plenty of firepower from its Division III World Series team last season, enough for voters to slot the Redhawks in as the preseason No. 5 team in the country. The offense centers around Luis Navedo, a first-team D3baseball.com All-America selection last season who had a .513 on-base percentage and hit 10 homers, scoring 49 times. La Roche graduated three everyday players from 2016, but outfielder Corey Lazor (31 extra-base hits, 53 RBI) was a junior last year, as was first baseman Ben Herstine (nine homers, 56 RBI). Tanner Wilt was a senior, but Regis Sauer (9-1, 2.62 ERA, 42 K and 13 BB in 82.1 innings) returns to lead the pitching staff. Nobody else made more than seven starts last season.

Penn State-Behrend (30-18) welcomes back two top starting pitchers from last season, two of whom were freshmen in 2016. Justin Rohrer enters his senior year off a 6-2 campaign in which he allowed just 53 hits and walked 13 in 59.1 innings, compiling a 2.60 ERA, while Zachary Krivda, nephew of former major leaguer Rick Krivda, posted a 4.35 ERA, going 5-2. Jack Herzing returns and is expected to make an impact after making just two starts last season. Shortstop Brandon Bergstrom (40 runs scored) leads a group of returning position players where only four players got more than 150 at-bats in 2016, along with catcher Brian Bohman (42 RBI, team-high five homers).

Pitt-Greensburg (22-19) is coming off a season in which it compiled a program-best 13-3 conference mark. Dylan Pounds, a middle infielder and pitcher, hit .388 last season and was the team leader in ERA with a 4.06 mark in 37.2 innings. Chris Common returns to the outfield after hitting .357 with five homers as a freshman.

Mount Aloysius (25-20) finished 9-7 in league play last year and brings back first baseman Kyle Droz (.378, 12 doubles, 27 runs scored) along with catcher-outfielder Bryn Brown, who was a first-team all-conference pick and hit six homers last season.

Pitt-Bradford (13-26), Penn State-Altoona (11-29) and Hilbert (11-21) are each looking for a spark under new coaches. UPB will be solid in the infield with Dalton Renn and Jay Clinger returning, while Altoona has outfielder Jim Shomberg, whose .463 batting average was sixth in all of Division III last season. Hilbert will look to first baseman Kevin Moore, who had a team-high 27 RBI and also made eight relief appearances as a right-hander.

Medaille (10-24) enters its fourth season under coach Josh Sova and is still looking to break into the middle of the pack. Kris Kruszka led the team in slugging, posting a .524 mark for a team that averaged just two extra-base hits per game. Travis Macrides had a successful summer and returns to D’Youville (3-29), where he is the returning team leader in batting average at just .277.

Outfielder Matt Barger slugged .507 and scored 37 runs for Earlham as a junior in 2016.
Earlham athletics photo 

Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference: Earlham (29-14) finished third in the league standings last year with the conference freshman of the year and three returning first-team all-conference players. That includes Walter Talcott, who returns for his sophomore year after going 10-2 with a 1.91 ERA, striking out 87 while walking just 16. Howie Smith (6-5, 3.54) will return to form a 1-2 punch in the rotation for a team that used just nine pitchers in 2016. The Quakers’ top five run scorers all return as well, including shortstop Brennan Laird (.417 on-base percentage, 44 runs, 39 homers) and first baseman Eric Elkus (.569 slugging, team-high 10 homers, 32 runs scored).

Manchester (22-19) is looking to move back up the conference standings after finishing fourth last season. Workhorse starting pitcher Taylor Kopplin returns after leading the team in most relevant pitching categories, finishing 5-7 with two saves and a 3.22 ERA. The Spartans scored four runs or fewer in 10 of his 13 starts. Tailur Szarenski returns at first base after a junior campaign in which he hit .360 with four homers and 34 RBI, while outfielder Chad Schultz (team-high 17 doubles, 35 RBI) returns as well. Defensive standout Hunter Lane returns at third base, but catcher and shortstop will be the question marks early on.

Transylvania (22-19) has five all-conference players returning from a team that won 16 of its final 22 games last season. Starters Adam Boone and Braden Johnson return for their senior seasons and can help the team immensely by making the transition from innings-eaters to aces. They posted nearly identical stat lines last season, with Johnson going 3-5 with a 4.96 ERA in 78 innings and Boone going 4-5 with a 4.97 mark in an additional inning and a third. Connor Blevins leads all returners with 14 extra-base hits on top of a .299 average, while Blake Hart returns at catcher, where he hit .333 and had three homers and 12 RBI.

It will be a key year to determine whether Rose-Hulman (32-13) can reload or if the Fightin’ Engineers must rebuild. Last year’s run to the regionals was fueled by seniors up and down the lineup, and RHIT counts just four starters returning. Among them is catcher Zach Trusk, who hit .354 and drove in 38 runs, drawing 22 walks while striking out 13 times in 45 games. Joey Callahan (2-1, 6.60 ERA) is the leading returning pitcher in terms of innings, as he made three starts in 2016, the only ones not made by the four seniors in the rotation.

The rest are hoping to unseat one of the teams above and break into the conference tournament title hunt. Defiance (18-22) has nine seniors returning, including outfielder Zack Reed (28 runs, team-high 11 steals). Nick Watkins (5-4, 3.98) leads three senior starters. Franklin (15-24) is led by dual threat Jordan Clark, who led the Grizzlies as an outfielder with 32 runs batted in and was 3-3 with a 4.66 ERA as well as a freshman last season. Righthander Christian Sullivan was the team's ERA leader last year with a 3.67 mark in 68.2 innings. Alex Wagner leads the pitching staff for Mount St. Joseph (20-19) after posting a 2.22 ERA his freshman season. Third baseman Drew Werner returns as well after missing the 2016 season because of injury. Bluffton (14-26) will have a senior-laden pitching staff led by Taylor Gambrell (2-2, 3.08 ERA). Shortstop Luke Hickey hit .288 last season and walked 17 times with a team-high 23 RBI. Brian Page (5-4, 3.38) and Lane Hanzel (2.42 ERA in 19 relief appearances) lead the returners for co-coached Anderson (16-21), along with Augdan Wilson (team-high 65 total bases). Hanover (13-25) will have a host of new faces on the mound after sophomore David Herrmann (2-5, 4.04 ERA). Seven of the other 11 pitchers have thrown three or fewer collegiate innings. Jack Shine knocked in 31 runs, 11 more than any other Panther, and returns at shortstop.

Brian Killinger saved his best for May, compiling a .907 OPS in the final month for the Bulldogs.
Adrian athletics photo

Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association: Adrian (30-12) returns after going two-and-out in the MIAA tournament with hopes of returning to the regionals, where they’ve been eight of the last nine years. The Bulldogs will turn once again to Tommy Parsons on the mound, where he was 9-2 with a 2.18 ERA last season as a sophomore and was named to the 2017 D3baseball.com preseason All-America team. Kyle Shepherd returns for his senior season after going 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA, getting seven starts. Ryan Dorow has as many homers last year as errors at shortstop (eight), combining stellar power and a .395 batting average with defense. Speedster outfield Ian Mikowski (26 steals) led the team with a .426 batting average but the Bulldogs have some spots to fill in the outfield.

Ryan Orr leads the way for Kalamazoo (24-20-1), as a D3baseball.com preseason All-America selection following the right-hander’s 8-4, 1.99 performance as a sophomore last season. Aaron Schwark (5-3, 4.43) is a key lefty in the Hornets’ rotation as well. Ian Kobernick and Mitchell VanKoevering lead an offense that averaged just five runs per game last season, but had no at-bats go to seniors.

Alma (28-15) will need to replace four key starting pitchers, as Alex Valasek (7-2, 3.45 ERA) is the only returning starter. Outfielder Matt Minaudo (who hit .310 with just six extra-base hits) and Greg Goffee (.324, team-high 25 steals) were the No. 1 and No. 2 hitters in the order last season and lead a small group of returning position players. The program has high hopes for Ben Finzel, who transfered from a two-year school in South Carolina.

Hope (25-19) loses its three top innings-eaters and will hope for improvement from Ty Van Wieren, the top returning starter (2-2, 6.31 ERA in 2016). Landon Brower remains in the lineup at first base and is the team’s leading returning run producer, with 34 RBI.

Trine (18-21) struggled both on offense and on the mound with a young team last year but had a number of underclassmen gaining experience, including Ben Wheaton (4-4, 4.87 ERA). Calvin (16-24) gets first baseman Colton Wolfe back for one more year after he set school records with 12 homers and 44 RBI. Sophomores got a lot of at-bats and freshmen led Albion (15-25) in innings last year, with right-handers Andrew Fabry (4-4, 4.99) and Mitch Shedlowsky (2-4, 5.20) back for their sophomore seasons.  With a roster featuring 12 freshmen and just four seniors, it could be another season for Olivet (5-34), even under a new coach. But there is plenty of room for grow for a team that hit one homer last season. Austin Cleaver returns to lead the way in the outfield after posting a team-best .355 on-base percentage.

Center fielder Jake Fling has scored 110 runs in just two seasons in a Wooster uniform.
Wooster athletics photo

North Coast Athletic Conference: Wooster (37-13) got to the final three in the regional last year and that was with a relatively young team. The pitching staff will be led by Michael Houdek (10-2, 3.14 ERA) and Nanak Saran (5-3, 3.82), with Michael Whitaker (3.21 ERA, 4 saves in 23 appearances) out of the bullpen. And none of those players are Jamie Lackner, who had a .560 on-base percentage with seven homers and 54 RBI. The first baseman mashed just about everything last year as a junior, but was at his best down the stretch as he hit .536 over his last 17 games and .526 in the regional. Michael Wielansky also heated up as his freshman season went along, as the shortstop shook off a tough March and hit .416 with seven homers over the last two months of the season. Plus Drew Tornow (.306-7-52, 13 steals), plus Ryan Ostendorf (.347-2-47, 15 steals) … there’s a lot of firepower coming back for the Scots.

Everyone else, seemingly, is playing for second place, starting with Denison (27-14). The Big Red return second baseman Eric Zmuda, who hit a team-best .345 to go along with 10 doubles and five triples. Home runs have been hard to come by at home for Denison, especially after the field renovation of a couple of years ago, but switch-hitting outfielder Evan Flax has a little bit of pop. The top three starters in terms of innings return for Denison, including right-hander Perley Provost (6-2, 2.90 ERA) and Zack Huarte (6-3, 3.38).

DePauw (25-19) lost a head coach and a top starter but returns a bunch of players across the board. Outfielder Jack Thompson (.353-3-32) leads the returning hitters, along with Tate Stewart, who hit .344 with 16 doubles and 24 RBI last year from his third base position. Lefty Riley Futterknecht returns after posting a 6-2 mark with a 2.96 ERA in 2016, joined by Andrew Quinn (4-3, 4.33) and Mike Hammel (7-3, 4.37).

Left fielder Robert DiMaggio leads the way for Allegheny (21-14), where he hit .348 and struck out just seven times in 35 games. Chase Boyer will be counted on to lead the rotation again after he posted a 6-1 record with a 2.71 ERA, striking out 73 in 63 innings. Kenyon (21-17) welcomes back a bunch of everyday players, including its top nine hitters, such as outfielder Mikey Arman (.358-1-22), but needs to retool its starting rotation.

Ohio Wesleyan (27-16) gets back just four of its top nine everyday players from last season and will rely on the bats of Aaron Strausbaugh (.378-3-28) and Colin Stolly (.355-1-39). Right-hander Kevin Zullo is the top returning starter, at 3-4 with a 4.38 ERA. Brothers Andrew and Sean Roginski lead Wabash (17-23), with Andrew at catcher (.333 with 23 RBI in 81 at-bats) and Sean in the outfield (.303, 27 runs scored). Jensen Kirch threw six complete games as a junior, going 5-4 with a 2.73 ERA.  

Wittenberg (12-27) needs to rebuild its rotation, although with a 7.51 ERA the Tigers could use some help. First baseman Timmy Bates returns after hitting .329 with 25 RBI and 10 steals as a sophomore. Ian Dinsmore returns after a stellar freshman season at the plate for Oberlin (14-26), which saw him hit .389 with 18 RBI. In the field, the shortstop committed 18 errors. Milo Sklar only started four games but completed two of them and led the team with 51.1 innings, compiling a 2.63 ERA. Brandon Chesmar, who plays first base when he’s not pitching for Hiram (7-28), enters his senior season after posting a 7.05 ERA and a .392 batting average in 2016.

By the end of the season, Greg Peffley definitely looked like he belonged in pinstripes, as he hit .396 with nine walks in April.
Marietta athletics photo

Ohio Athletic Conference: Marietta (28-17) enters the season as the prohibitive favorite, as it usually does. So many of last season’s key players were underclassmen, so even though Brian Brewer’s ballclub lost a couple more games than usual and went two-and-out in the regionals, plenty of signs point to 2016 being what reloading looks like for the Etta Express. For example, once Greg Peffley secured his spot at third base last season, he and Chris Petrucci not only locked down the left side of the infield but a couple of spots high in the batting order. Two of the three starting pitchers return, in Tommy Crowl (5-4, 4.12) and Tyler Nieberding (1-3, 4.35), with Ian Luttrell looking to get back in the mix after he missed most of last season because of mono. And David Stover, the 6-foot-8 reliever who throws submarine style, returns as well after allowing just 17 earned runs in 56.1 innings last season, saving five games and picking up six wins. A couple of new faces, even freshmen, could work into the lineup in the outfield.

An outstanding season from Tyler Kent helped Otterbein (32-11) win the top seed in the OAC tournament and got him drafted. Without him, or the next two hitters from last year’s lineup, the Cardinals will be more reliant on their returning starting pitchers. That includes Robert Kemer (7-0, 2.49), Craig Prince (5-2, 2.62) and Jordon Mally (7-0, 3.08), who combined for 29 of the 43 starts and all return.

John Carroll (19-22) gets lefty Drew Vargo (3-4, 3.21 ERA) back but nobody else from its starting rotation, plus the everyday lineup was hit fairly hard by graduation as well. Patrick Keohane returns to the outfield after a solid freshman season in which he got a lot of playing time down the stretch and ended up hitting .330, albeit with just six extra-base hits, all doubles.

T.J. Storer, a preseason D3baseball.com All-America selection, is a great piece at the end of the bullpen for Ohio Northern (21-16). The question for the Polar Bears is how they will get to the late innings to take advantage of Storer’s 0.49 ERA and eight saves. Devin Carr (2-3, 3.16 ERA) got six starts last year and is the top returner, while lots of pieces return from last year in an everyday lineup that did not see much stability.

Leadoff hitter and starting third baseman Spencer Badia returns to lead the offense for Baldwin Wallace (23-20), along with second baseman and No. 2 hitter Cole Nieto. Mark Zimmerman, another OAC draftee, leaves a huge hole in the lineup and the rotation, and junior righty Evan Lovick, who made just six starts last season, is the top returner. One of those six starts was a complete-game shutout of Marietta on the road last April.

Outfielder Billy Goodall (.376-1-34) is one of a handful of returning everyday players for Mount Union (18-20), along with third baseman Jimmy Scott (.341-2-28). Three of the five pitchers who got almost all of the Purple Raiders’ starts return, including sophomore right-hander Phil Mary, who went 4-2 with a 4.59 ERA.

The young pitching staff for Muskingum (17-20) has everyone back who threw more than 12 innings last season. Evan Hinds led the team with 56 innings pitched and allowed a lot of baserunners but finished 5-4 with a 5.40 ERA as a freshman. Third baseman Logan Bastin (.415-7-43) is the top returner for Capital (19-17), along with Brett Colburn (.415-0-15) at second base. Third baseman Adam Hershberger (team-high 56 hits) returns for Heidelberg (18-22) but the rotation lost 29 of its 40 starts from last season. Lefty Sam Ankrom (0-3, 6.88) threw the most innings among returners. Wilmington (4-35) gave 100 or more at-bats to six players last season, four of them freshmen. First baseman Jake Hyatt had the most success, slugging .414 with three homers and 19 RBI, but struck out 44 times and drew just eight walks.

Ben Laumann got plenty of accolades himself in 2016.
Thomas More athletics photo 

Presidents’ Athletic Conference: They’ll definitely miss Donovan Pogue at Thomas More (31-12) but this potent offense has plenty of bats to go around, starting with junior second baseman Ben Laumann, who led the team with 60 runs scored, had a .490 on-base percentage and stole 19 bases without being caught. Outfielders  Ben Kenning and Casey Metzger combined for 39 extra-base hits and Bailey Abbatiello showed a little pop at third base. Nobody showed ace pitcher potential from the Saints last season, and lack of pitching depth caught up with them early at the South Regional. But Brandon Eladis did make nine starts and got better as his sophomore season went on, even if he didn’t quite live up to his freshman year stats, finishing 3-0 with a 5.55 ERA. His best start, by far, was in an elimination game at the regional, where he held Huntingdon to six hits and one run over seven innings in a game the Saints eventually won.

In many sports in the PAC, Washington and Jefferson and Thomas More are the primary competitors for the conference title, and it’s no different in baseball. For the Presidents (25-16) to be a serious contender to participate in the regional which it hosts this season, they’ll need another big year from Nick Vento (.383, eight homers, 38 RBI) and continue to get quality production from their rotation. Trevor Kerr threw like an ace last season, going 6-1 with a 2.38 ERA, while Bryce Schnatterly and Riley Groves all posted ERAs below 4.00. Key reliever Matt Heslin (1-0, 2.78) returns as well. It’s the rest of the everyday players that need to step up, as another year of seasoning can hopefully produce more than 5.9 runs per game.

Grove City (27-17) did more than enough to earn Matt Royer the coaching job going forward, so the question is what the Wolverines will do for an encore. First baseman Matt Waugaman and catcher Andy Fritz each hit better than .400 last year and Waugaman had 13 homers, so that’s a good place to start. John Bini returns after posting a team-best 9-0 mark with a 3.81 ERA as well.

Thiel (29-14) has just one player back who got more than 100 at-bats last year, outfielder Bryan Mitchell (.325-2-27) and will be picking from some of the players it mixed-and-matched with during lineup shuffling in 2016. In losing Matt Elko, the Tomcats lost both a .423 hitter and an ace with a 1.96 ERA. Kevin Forrester (7-3, 4.54) is the top returning starter.

Greg Martin (.330, 22 RBI, 1.96 ERA, seven saves) remains a dual threat for St. Vincent (17-20), with Dave Culeton (4-3, 3.83 ERA) a key arm as well. Speedster Josh Hausler could be the key for Waynesburg (17-22) if the Yellow Jackets want to play their way into the conference tournament picture. Westminster (Pa.) was fortunate to finish 9-28 after a 2-25 start. Sean Coyne (3-6, 4.17) and Nate McMaster (1-7, 4.98) pitched reasonably well but didn’t get much run support from a team that scored 4.7 runs per game. Bethany (9-29) tried a lot of combinations in the everyday lineup but had an even more anemic offense. Nobody scored or drove in more than 20 runs. Lefty-hitting sophomore outfielder John Lee is the best bet to try to spark that. Caleb Metzler (2-5, 3.70 ERA) was the best starter for Geneva (11-25) last season and could improve on that his senior year.

Alex Capetillo struggled at the plate in April but came alive with a strong performance at the regionals for Case Western Reserve.
Case athletics photo 

The rest: At Case Western Reserve (26-15), the Spartans program has an even bigger fight on its hands than trying to repeat its run to the regionals, as coach Matt Englander continues to receive chemo treatment for a brain tumor. On the field, however, it was a quite young everyday lineup that will have a large number of players back, as well as a young rotation that loses only four of 41 starts. Jake Shields was 8-3 with a 3.84 ERA last season for the Spartans. On offense, Dan Watson really filled out the stat line as a sophomore, hitting .359 with three triples, four homers and 23 steals.

Remember, this is the first year the University Athletic Association is breaking away from its spring break/Florida tournament schedule, and Case is scheduled for four-game series at Emory, vs. Brandeis, at NYU and vs. Washington University. The Spartans also play four vs. the University of Chicago and one vs. Rochester that do not count in the conference standings (and therefore, the UAA still does not get an automatic bid).

Chatham begins its first baseball season but has just 14 varsity games scheduled and is not playing a PAC schedule. A roster of primarily freshmen is spotlighted by first baseman Carmen Jansante, who played two years at Community College of Allegheny County and hit .517 with two homers and 40 RBI in 26 games last season.

Finlandia (11-16) has 34 games scheduled, but as an independent in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it’s difficult to get those games in. Patrick Coles will surely be in the lineup one way or another, though, since he leads returners in ERA (3.32 in 21.2 innings) and at-bats (95, in which he hit .274). Clarks Summit (6-28-1), a member of the Colonial States Athletic Conference for most sports, has competed as an independent in baseball since the program was revived in 2014 after a year off. Joe Chupick (.311, six doubles) hit one of the team’s two homers last season, but the Defenders really need to defend the mound, where the team posted an 11.41 ERA last season and has nobody returning with an ERA below 9.00.