FREELAND, Mich.--Nationally-ranked Adrian College has been predicted to win the 2019 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association baseball title chase according to the MIAA preseason coaches' poll released on Friday. In balloting by the league's eight conference head coaches, the Bulldogs picked up seven of eight first-place votes and received seven points as the unanimous favorite (coaches cannot vote for their own team). Adrian is the 10-time defending MIAA champion and has captured six of the seven MIAA tournaments held since 2012.
In December, Adrian received 215 points for No. 26 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Preseason Top-40 national rankings which are endorsed by the American Baseball Coaches Association. The Bulldogs are in the "others receiving votes" category with 53 points, which would be 27th if the poll was extrapolated beyond the Top-25.
Adrian is led by four CBN Preseason All-Americans including junior right-handed pitcher Pierce Banks (Sterling Heights, Mich./Parkway Christian High School), junior catcher Gunner Rainey (Adrian, Mich./Madison HS), junior first baseman Brady Wood (Frankenmuth, Mich.) and sophomore right-hander Jordan Williams (Westland, Mich./Lutheran Westland HS).
Wood, who mostly played second base last season, led the offense with a .399/.458/.554 slashline with 14 doubles and 34 runs batted in, earning first-team All-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association accolades. Wood tied a single-game school record with five hits in the MIAA finale at Hope.
Rainey, who has patrolled left field in his previous two seasons with the Bulldogs, also made the all-conference first team after career highs in batting average (.344), on-base percentage (.401), slugging (.411), runs scored (39), hits (62) and RBI (32). He became the 38th Bulldog in school history to reach 100 career hits on May 5, 2018, at Hope.
The mound is occupied by the formidable pair of Williams and Banks who were named first and second-team all-conference, respectively, last spring. Williams leads a returning Adrian pitching staff with an 8-1 record with three saves and 2.07 earned-run average in 74 innings (66 strikeouts) as he also landed a spot on the ABCA/Rawlings and D3baseball.com All-Mideast Region second teams as a freshman. Banks had a solid sophomore effort that included a 7-2 mark, 4.21 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 72.2 innings. (Banks was second-team all-region by ABCA as a 2017 freshman.)
All told, the Bulldogs return seven starters in the lineup and three pitchers in the MIAA rotation off a 2018 squad that went 35-12 overall, 24-4 for first place in the MIAA, 2-2 in the NCAA Division III Baseball Mideast Regional Championship and finished No. 29 in the ABCA/CBN national rankings.
The Bulldogs open the 2019 season on Saturday, March 2, at Birmingham Southern College.
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MIAA BASEBALL preseason poll
Place - School - Points (first place votes)
1 - Adrian - 7(7)
2 - Hope - 14 (1)
3 - Kalamazoo - 22
4 - Alma - 31
5 - Trine - 32
6 - Calvin - 34
7 - Albion - 40
8 - Olivet - 48