TERRE HAUTE, IND. -- The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology baseball team has been picked as the preseason favorite to win the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference this season, in the league coaches poll released on Wednesday.
Rose-Hulman received seven of 10 first place votes after finishing second in the HCAC regular season standings last year. The Fightin' Engineers also reached the NCAA Division III Central Regional championship game in 2014 with much of the nucleus on this year's upcoming squad.
Earlham was picked to finish second after qualifying for the HCAC Tournament last season. Traditionally strong Manchester, Franklin and Anderson were selected third though fifth. Bluffton, Hanover, Transylvania, Defiance and Mount St. Joseph rounded out the poll.
Rose-Hulman returns eight offensive starters, three starting pitchers and the closer from last year's team. The Fightin' Engineers finished 26-16 last season and 17-9 in conference play.
Returning offensive starters for Rose-Hulman this season include catcher Zach Trusk (.282, 6 2B, 2 HR); first baseman Zach Hull (.292, 6 2B); second baseman Caleb Kissel (.340, 8 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR); shortstop Kody Alayon (.300, 3 2B, 16 SB); third baseman Donnie Waters (.390, 7 2B, 2 HR); left fielder Nevin Fansher (.277, 1 2B, 1 HR); center fielder Patrick Klima (.291, 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR); and designated hitter Josh Koutnik (.272, 4 2B). Seniors Hazen Hamather and Evan Witsken, along with junior Drew Schnitz, are returnees that also had over 60 at bats last season.
The starting rotation is led by 2015 HCAC Pitcher of the Year Karson Nixon, who finished 5-2 with a 1.58 earned run average and 64 strikeouts in 79.2 innings pitched. Other returnees to the starting rotation include senior Andrew Stull (4-5, 3.52 ERA) and sophomore Joey Callahan (4-4, 4.93 ERA). Senior Alec McNally (4-1, 0.46 ERA, 6 saves) was recently named a preseason honorable mention All-American by d3baseball.com.
Rose-Hulman opens the 2016 season with its annual Florida spring trip starting Feb. 28 with a doubleheader against Ohio Northern.
2016 HCAC BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL
|Finish||Team||First Place Votes||2015 Overall Record||2015 HCAC Record|
|10||Mt. St. Joseph||24||13-23||8-18|