The Eastern Mennonite baseball team has been picked to finish eighth in the 2011 Old Dominion Athletic Conference Preseason Poll. The Royals finished in seventh place last season and return a strong core of players, including 2010 ODAC batting champ Dylan Smith (Sterling, Va./Park View).
EMU closed with an 11-17 mark last year including 6-12 in ODAC play. The Royals finished just behind sixth-place Washington & Lee at 8-10. The two teams split their two regular season meetings, meaning if the Royals would have swept W&L they would have made the six-team ODAC Tournament for the first time since 2002.
Senior first baseman Jake Norman batted .341 in 2010 and committed just four errors all season.
Aside from returning four pitchers from the starting rotation and last year’s closer, the men also bring back Smith as their starting catcher. He batted .458 as a sophomore, topping the league, and took home All-ODAC Second Team honors. Center fielder Chris Harpine (Fredericksburg, Va./Colonial Forge) batted .330 with four homeruns and 13 doubles and was named All-ODAC Honorable Mention.
Eastern Mennonite opens its 2011 season this Sunday, Feb. 6, with a doubleheader at North Carolina Wesleyan in Rocky Mount, NC.
In what could be a telling sign for the upcoming season, just 15 points separated the top four teams in the 2011 ODAC Preseason Poll. Bridgewater College stands at the top, having secured four first place votes on the way to 90 total poll points in the annual survey of the league’s coaches. Randolph-Macon sits just two points back with 88 tallies, but the Yellow Jackets received five first place nods. Virginia Wesleyan College is third with 80 points, and Lynchburg is fourth with 75 markers. Guilford College earned the final first place vote.
Bridgewater collected an ODAC-best 13th conference title in 2010, having defeated Lynchburg twice on the tournament’s final day to hoist the conference hardware. Those victories would mark the last for BC in 2010 as losses to Shenandoah and Salisbury in the NCAA Division III Tournament ended the Eagles experience in the double-elimination event.
For the 2011 campaign, BC welcomes back its top two hitters in second baseman Kevin Kirk and catcher Devon Snow. Kirk finished 12th in the ODAC with a .398 batting average, proving one of the toughest hitters to strike out (7 in 133 at-bats). Snow hit at a .391 clip, good enough for 14th in the league, and led the team with 15 stolen bases.
Randolph-Macon opens up its new home in 2011 with the completion of Hugh Stephens Field at Estes Park. Five all-conference performers return to break in the new digs, including 2010 ODAC Pitcher of the Year, Kyle Hicks. Hicks led the ODAC with a 2.15 ERA in posting a 6-2 record. He fanned 48 and walked just 11 in 54.1 innings.
Virginia Wesleyan will look to plenty of new faces both at the plate and on the mound. All-ODAC First Team outfielder Myles Shipp leads an offense that looks to replace the efforts of All-American and ODAC Player of the Year, Mike Marion. Shipp was eighth in the ODAC with a .415 batting average, collecting 20 walks towards a .497 OBP.
Lynchburg (23-16-1, 10-8) welcomes back a trio of second team choices in first baseman Chris Colquhoun (.331) shortstop Richard Palase (.301) and designated hitter Brock Shiflett (.397). Shiflett, the reigning ODAC Rookie of the Year, collected 14 doubles as part of 56 hits.
Hampden-Sydney fields a strong group of returners, led by a pair of All-ODAC First Team choices in first baseman Justin Hebert (.382, 8 HR) and shortstop Chris Martin (.342, 22 BB). The Tigers boast one of the conference’s top leadoff men in outfielder Herbie Williams (.423), who led the ODAC with six triples and was second with 34 stolen bases.
Washington and Lee and Guilford both return standout talent. All-ODAC Second Team pitcher Roger Strong leads the Generals’ staff after posting a 4-2 record and a 3.28 ERA. Shortstop Jonathan Stutts hit .345.
The Quakers welcome back former NCAA batting champion Kyle Wooden to the dugout following a junior campaign in which he batted .341 with 13 doubles, eight homers and 33 RBI.
Roanoke will rely upon new faces across the diamond. Mark Manthe (.263) is the top returning bat, while the pitching staff will look for Michael Haslam (1-3, 27 K) and John Terlesky (2-0, 30 K) to take over the reins.
Emory & Henry features the return of top hitter Eric Houff, who was sixth in the ODAC with a .425 batting average.
Listed below is the complete 2010 ODAC Baseball Preseason Poll. For more information go to the ODAC’s home on the Internet at www.odaconline.com.
2011 ODAC BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL
(#) Denotes First Place Votes
1. Bridgewater (4) – 90 pts.
2. Randolph-Macon (5) – 88 pts.
3. Virginia Wesleyan – 80 pts.
4. Lynchburg – 75 pts.
5. Hampden-Sydney – 54 pts.
6. Washington and Lee – 50 pts.
7. Guilford (1) – 44 pts.
8. Eastern Mennonite – 32 pts.
9. Roanoke – 23 pts.
10. Emory & Henry – 14 pts.