GREENWOOD, Ind. – The Earlham College Quakers baseball team has been selected as the favorite to claim the 2017 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball championship. The Quakers received 98 total points and eight first place votes in the annual HCAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.
The poll collects votes from all ten head coaches in the HCAC. Manchester University received the second most votes in the poll and finished with 84 total points. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology finished third in the poll with 76 points and two first place votes and was followed by Transylvania University which claimed 59 points. Franklin College (57), Anderson University (55), Defiance College (36), Mount St. Joseph University (31), Bluffton University (28), and Hanover College (26) rounded out the poll.
Earlham will be looking for the school's first HCAC baseball title this spring. The Quakers finished third in the HCAC standings during the 2016 season with a 16-10 conference mark. Earlham ended their season in the conference championship title game with a 7-6 loss to Rose-Hulman.
The Quakers return the HCAC Freshman of the Year and three All-HCAC first-team members from last season's team.
Sophomore pitcher Walter Talcott (Lafayette, Ind. / McCutcheon) earned the conference's top freshman honor a year ago, finishing conference play with a 7-1 record on the mound. Walcott posted an ERA of 1.91 and struck out 65 batters in 65.1 innings of work. Senior shortstop Brennan Laird (Olmstead Falls, Ohio / Olmstead Falls), senior outfielder Matt Barger (Hamilton, Ohio / Talawanda), and senior pitcher Howie Smith (Hamilton, Ohio / Talawanda) earned first-team All-HCAC honors as juniors last spring. Laird led the conference last season with 29 stolen bases and hit .307 with 44 runs, while Barger led the team with 15 doubles and a .326 average.
Eric Elkus (Edgewood, Ky. / Dixie Heights) earned second-team all-HCAC honors as a junior and led the conference with 43 RBI and 10 home runs. The senior first baseman finished the season with a .286 average.
Manchester University will be looking for the school's fifth HCAC baseball title this spring. The Spartans finished fourth in the conference standings in 2016, earning a 16-10 league record. Manchester ended their season in a loss to Transylvania in the conference tournament and finished 22-19 overall.
The Spartans return two All-HCAC first-team selections to the lineup. Senior first baseman Tailur Szarenski (Bluffton, Ind. / Norwell) finished the season with 34 RBI and a .360 batting average. Senior outfielder Chad Schultz (Fair Oaks, Ind. / North Newton) led the team with 17 doubles and 35 RBI last season.
Rose-Hulman is predicted to finish third after earning the conference title last season. The Fightin' Engineers finished first in the standings a year ago with an 18-6 league record, finishing the season 32-13 overall. Rose-Hulman ended their season in the NCAA Regional final with a loss to Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The Fightin' Engineers return one All-HCAC first-team member from last season's team. Senior catcher Zach Trusk (Plainfield, Ill. / North) hit .354 with 42 runs scored, 38 RBI, and 10 doubles last spring.
2016 Baseball Players to Watch
Anderson: Brian Page - P (Sr., New Palestine, Ind. / New Palestine), Lane Hanzel - P (Sr., Liberty, Ill. / Liberty), Augdan Wilson - 3B (Sr., Pendleton, Ind. / Pendleton Heights)
Bluffton: Dyson Bowman – P (Sr., Coshocton, Ohio / Coshocton), Luke Hickey – SS (Sr., Toledo, Ohio / Whitmer), Clayton Siders - OF (Sr., Delaware, Ohio / Worthington Christian) , Taylor Gambrell – P (Sr., Bowling Green, Ohio / Bowling Green), Corey Johnson – P (Sr., Waverly, Ohio / Waverly)
Defiance: Zack Reed - OF (Sr., Midland, Mich. / Bullock Creek), Dave Blanch – P (Sr., Allison, Ontario / Banting Memorial), Nick Peters - P (Sr., Macomb, Mich. / Eisenhower), Quinten Harrington - OF (Sr., Sandusky, Ohio / Perkins), Michael Gilliland - IF (So., Napoleon, Ohio / Napoleon)
Earlham: Walter Talcott - P (So., Lafayette, Ind. / McCutcheon), Brennan Laird – SS (Sr., Olmstead Falls, Ohio / Olmstead Falls), Nate Lynch - OF (Sr., Hamilton, Ohio / Talawanda), Howie Smith – P (Sr., Hamilton, Ohio / Talawanda), Cody Krumlauf - C (Sr., Auburn, Ind. / DeKalb), Eric Elkus - 1B (Sr., Edgewood, Ky. / Dixie Heights), Matt Barger - OF (Sr., Hamilton, Ohio / Edgewood)
Franklin: Jordan Clark - P/OF (So., Connersville, Ind. / Connersville), Frank Podkul - 3B (Jr., Schererville, Ind. / Andrean), Jacob McMain - P (Sr., Kokomo, Ind. / Kokomo), Christian Sullivan – P (Jr., Schererville, Ind. / Lake Central)
Hanover: Jack Shine - SS (Jr., New Albany, Ind. / New Albany), Chase Sizemore - 2B (So., Fishers, Ind. / Lapel), Brooks Bailey - OF (So., Columbus, Ind. / Hauser), David Herrmann - P (so., Fishers, Ind. / Hamilton Southeast)
Manchester: Tailur Szarenski – 1B (Sr., Bluffton, Ind. / Norwell), Chad Schultz - OF (Sr., Fair Oaks, Ind. / North Newton), Taylor Kopplin – P (Jr., Westport Ind. / South Decatur), Brandon Eck - P (Jr., Fort Wayne, Ind. / Northrop), Cory Ferguson - P (Sr., Fort Wayne, Ind. / Northrop)
Mount St. Joseph: Zak Farmer – P (Sr., Hamilton, Ohio / Lakota West), Nick Browning – OF (Sr., Fairfield, Ohio / Hamilton Badin), Matt Hofmann – SS/P (Sr., Cincinnati, Ohio / Elder), Alex Wagner - P (So., West Chester, Ohio / Lakota West), Jacob Gunnell - P (Sr., Hamilton, Ohio / Fairfield)
Rose-Hulman: Zach Trusk – C (Sr., Plainfield, Ill. / North), Drew Schnitz - SS (Sr., Huntington, Ind. / North), Cody Sunderhaus - P (Sr., Georgetown, Ind. / Floyd Central), Koby Close - DH (Sr., Buena Vista, Colo. / Buena Vista), David Burnside - OF (So., Northbrook, Ill. / Glenbrook North)
Transylvania: Tom Banahan - P (Sr., Lexington, Ky. / Lexington Catholic), Jared Williams - IF (Jr., Burlington, Ky. / Conner), Braden Johnson - P (Sr., Crestwood, Ky. / South Oldham), Blake Hart - C (Jr., Hebron, Ky. / Conner), Adam Boone - P (Sr., Louisville, Ky. / Ballard)