INDIANAPOLIS – The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball coaches released their annual preseason poll Wednesday afternoon.
The Panthers received 25 points in the poll to place ninth overall. Defending champion and preseason nationally-ranked Franklin College tallied seven first place votes and a poll-high 96 points. Anderson and Rose-Hulman grabbed the remaining first place votes and placed second and third, respectively, with 83 and 82 points.
The rest of the poll is as followed: Earlham (62), Manchester (53), Transylvania (52), Bluffton (43), Mount St. Joseph (32), Hanover (25) and Defiance (22).
Hanover will look to improve upon its preseason prognosis in Year One under head coach Grant Bellak. Bellak comes to Hanover after a seven-year stint as an assistant coach for the Franklin Grizzlies. Franklin produced a 170-115 overall record with Bellak present, while also accumulating four HCAC Tournament appearances, two tournament finals appearances, as well as the regular season and tournament conference championships and national tournament appearance last season.
The Blue and Red will have the luxury of returning two all-conference selections from the 2018 season in seniors Josh Meszaros (Loveland, Ohio) and Garett Zorb (Medina, Ohio). Senior Tyler Fitch (Crestwood, Ky.), a 2017 honorable mention all-HCAC pick, is also back this spring. Classmates David Herrmann (Fishers, Ind.) and Chase Sizemore (Fishers, Ind.) were also tabbed to the preseason watchlist.
Hanover will be looking to record double-digit conference wins for the first time since 2016, which capped a three-year run of the same feat. The Panthers' last overall winning season came in 2012, where they went 22-17.
Hanover will open the 2019 campaign with its annual Winter Break trip to Florida from Monday, Feb. 25, to Saturday, March 2. The season-opener will come against Cabrini (Pa.) at 1:30 p.m., Feb. 25. The Panthers home opener follows the Florida trip with a 3:30 p.m. first pitch against Spalding (Ky.), Tuesday, March 5.
Contact: Tyler Jester