TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Following the deepest NCAA Division III Tournament run in program history, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology baseball team has been picked to finish third in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in the preseason league coaches poll.
Rose-Hulman advanced to the Central Regional Championship Game, the equivalent of the Division III Baseball Round of 16, with a memorable NCAA Tournament run last May. The Fightin' Engineers finished 32-13 overall with wins over Wartburg, Washington University and Wisconsin-Whitewater, before the nationally ranked Whitewater squad won two elimination games over the Fightin' Engineers in the Regional Title Round.
Rose-Hulman also won the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season and postseason tournament championships in 2016. The Fightin' Engineers won the HCAC Tournament championship with a 7-6 win over Earlham at Art Nehf Field last May.
The Fightin' Engineers were hit hard by graduation after the 2016 season, as 14 seniors earned their diplomas. The offense features three returning starters in reigning HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player Zach Trusk (.354, 10 2B, 2 HR), senior infielder Drew Schnitz (.316, 7 2B, 2 HR) and sophomore outfielder David Burnside (.314, 19 2B, 2 HR).
The pitching staff graduated starters in 42 of the 45 games last season. Junior Joey Callahan leads the returning starters after finishing 2-1 with 21 strikeouts in 30 innings of work. Senior Cody Sunderhaus recorded a 0.53 earned run average with six saves, improving his career totals to 3-1 with a 0.33 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 27 innings of work. Junior Ian Grant, senior Jonathan Banks, junior Chuck Alexa and sophomore Trevor Dallio all gained action in more than five outings in 2016.
Veteran head coach Jeff Jenkins enters his 28th season at the helm of this spring. Jenkins has a career record of 733-480-2, including a mark of 688-415-1 at Rose-Hulman. Assistant coach Sean Bendel returns for his 19th season, giving the Fightin' Engineers one of the most experienced coaching staffs in the nation.
Last year's HCAC Tournament runner-up Earlham was picked as the preseason favorite, receiving eight first-place votes and 98 poll points. Manchester was selected second with 84 points, followed by Rose-Hulman with the remaining two first-place votes and 76 poll points.
Transylvania, Franklin, Anderson, Defiance, Mount St. Joseph, Bluffton and Hanover rounded out the poll. Rose-Hulman has been picked No. 37 in the Collegiate Baseball national preseason poll and is receiving votes in the D3baseball.com/NCBWA Top 25 poll.
The Fightin' Engineers open the 2017 season with a matchup against Neumann on Feb. 26 to open its six-game annual Florida spring trip. The Rose-Hulman home opener is scheduled for March 7 against Greenville College.
2017 HCAC BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL
|Finish||Team||First Place Votes||2016 Overall Record||2016 HCAC Record|
|8||Mt. St. Joseph||31||21-19||10-17|