FREELAND, MICH. -- The Trine University baseball team was picked to finish in a tie for fourth in the 2018 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Preseason Coaches Poll.
The Thunder finished with 29 points and tied with Calvin (Mich.) College to finish fourth of eight teams. Adrian (Mich.) College was picked as the favorite with seven points and seven-of-eight first-place votes. Hope (Mich.) College was second with 14 points and a first-place vote and Kalamazoo (Mich.) College rounded out the top-three schools with 23 points.
Last season, Trine posted a 19-18 overall record and were tied for fourth in the conference with a 13-15 mark.
Highlighting the list of returning players in 2018 is senior Kevin O'Malley (Commerce Twp., Mich./Walled Lake Central). O'Malley was fourth on the team last season in batting average at .330 (33-of-100) and hit one homerun, four doubles, scored 16 runs and was tied for fifth in RBI with 18.
Also back, is junior Jacob Heller (Fort Wayne, Ind./Prairie Heights) who earned first-team All-MIAA honors last season after leading the team in batting average (.408), hits (49) and stolen bases (nine). He was second on the team in RBIs with 25 and scored 39 runs.
In addition to O'Malley and Heller, the Thunder will also return junior Zachary Schulte (Sterling Heights, Mich./Warren Cousino) and sophomores Nick Ricci (Hebron, Ind./Crown Point) and Chase Hall (Orleans, Ind./Orleans).
Schulte played in 32 of 37 games and started 21. He batted .265 (22-of-83) at the plate with three doubles and finished amongst the team leaders with 22 runs scored and 10 RBI. Ricci rounds out the returners with a .300 or better batting average at .304 (17-of-56). He belted one homerun, had two doubles, scored nine runs and drove in 13 runs as a freshman. Hall tied O'Malley in RBI with 18 while hitting .237 (23-of-97) with four doubles and scored 14 runs.
On the mound, the Thunder return two players from their main rotation last year, led by senior Ben Wheaton (Kalamazoo, Mich./Hackett Catholic Central). Wheaton posted a 4-3 record last spring with a 4.47 earned run average and led the team in innings pitched (54.1). He made a total of 11 appeances, with nine starts, and struck out 23 batters to finish second on the team in that statistical category.
Sophomore Caleb Deiter (Whiteland, Ind./Whiteland Community) also saw playing time in the starting rotation last season making five starts in 10 total appearances. He recorded a pair of wins, including a save, while striking out 22 batters in 34 complete innings of work.
Also back is the sophomore duo of Mike Gustin (Hudson, Ind./Prairie Heights) and Shawn Ligocki (West Chicago, Ill./St. Charles East). Gustin appeared in seven games as a freshman and also started a game. He pitched seven-and-a-third innings in his "rookie" campaign and had nine strikeouts. Ligocki pitched a total of 10 innings in five appearances in 2017 that also included a pair of starts. In addition, Ligocki ended the season with four strikeouts.
In addition to the returners, the Thunder also welcome several new additions that include transfer Cale Hall (Orleans, Ind./Olney Central), along with freshmen Adam Wheaton (Kalamazoo, Mich./Hackett Catholic Prep), Kyle Robinson (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point), Nick Bonifant (Heath, Ohio/Heath) and Drew Cebulak (Oakmont, Pa./Central Catholic).
Trine will begin the season on Mar. 4 with a doubleheader against Central (Iowa) College as part of the RussMatt Invitational in Winter Haven, Fla. The first game of the twinbill is scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m.
2018 MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll
|Place||School (First-Place Votes)||Points|