CARMEL, Ind. – The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball coaches released their preseason poll Tuesday afternoon.
The Panthers received 45 points in the poll to place sixth. HCAC Tournament Champion, Franklin captured the top spot with 94 points and six first place votes. The Grizzlies claimed the HCAC at large bid last season before falling in the NCAA Regional to Concordia (Texas). The 2019 regular season champion, Rose-Hulman was tabbed second with 86 points and two first place votes, while Anderson and Transylvania claimed the final two first place nods, respectively.
The rest of the poll shakes out as followed: Earlham (46), Hanover (45), Defiance (44), Manchester (40), Bluffton (32) and Mt. St. Joseph (13).
The Panthers will look to continue to make strides under second year head coach Grant Bellak after finishing ninth last season and nearly doubling their win total from the 2018 season at 15-19 overall. Bellak has the pleasure of returning two All-Conference selections in HCAC Freshman of the Year honoree, sophomore Andrew Littlefield (Lousisville, Ky.) and senior Mark Walkenhorst (Ft. Thomas, Ky.).
Littlefield earned the Panther program its first HCAC Freshman of the Year honor since the 2009 season. The sophomore finished his first-year campaign with a batting average of .342, leading all HCAC freshman. He added an HCAC best seven SAC's ranking him 13th nationally, while making seven starts on the mound for the Blue and Red.
Walkenhorst enters the 2020 season as one of the top offensive threats for Hanover. The senior finished the 2019 campaign with team-bests in batting average at .379 and homeruns with six to go along with his 21 RBI and 25 runs scored.
Hanover is set to open the 2020 campaign with a trip to Danville, Ky. on Friday, February 21 and Saturday, February 22 where they will take on Center and Trine. First pitch of the new season is slated for 5 P.M.
2020 HCAC Baseball Preseason Poll
|Rank||Institution||Points (1st Votes)|
|10.||Mt. St. Joseph||13|