Bulldogs Ring In 2020 with a No. 14 National Ranking in ABCA Preseason Poll

A program accustomed to high expectations, Adrian Baseball will be seeking more championships in 2020 as the Bulldogs begin the preseason ranked No. 14 in the nation. (Action photo by Mike Dickie)
A program accustomed to high expectations, Adrian Baseball will be seeking more championships in 2020 as the Bulldogs begin the preseason ranked No. 14 in the nation. (Action photo by Mike Dickie)

CBN Top-40 Preseason Poll

TUCSON, Ariz.--Coming off a record-breaking 2019 campaign, the Adrian College baseball team will enter 2020 in the No. 14 slot in the national rankings of the American Baseball Coaches Association-endorsed Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll. Adrian received 247 points in CBN's Top-40 preseason coaches' poll for NCAA Division III schools that appears in the college preview edition of the publication.

Adrian is the only school representing the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association in these national rankings (Hope is in the "also receiving votes" category). In the 2019 preseason poll, the Bulldogs were 26th with 215 points.

Adrian returns the bulk of a team that finished 37-9 overall (12th 30-win season in a row) and 24-4 in the MIAA, extending its conference record of 11 consecutive conference championships. The Bulldogs were the regional runner-up for the first time in five years in their 13th NCAA Division III Baseball Championship berth, hosting an NCAA Regional for the second time in a row and third in program history.

Adrian launches the 2020 season--its 27th under head coach Craig Rainey '89--on Friday through Sunday, Feb. 21-23, for a three-game series at Pfeiffer.

For the first time in program history, Adrian completed an entire season nationally ranked in the ABCA/CBN poll. Adrian received 124 points to check in the No. 25 spot in the ABCA's final NCAA Division III rankings for 2019.

In addition, Adrian was 20th in the D3baseball.com/National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Top-25 with 137 points. 

The Bulldogs, who were 13th in the last regular-season polling (and No. 9 by D3baseball.com), wrapped up last spring with a 37-9 overall mark and 24-4 conference ledger for first place in the MIAA. The team established or tied school records for regular season wins (AC also had 32 in 2012), overall victories (2012 squad also had 37), fewest losses in a 40-game season and best winning percentage (.804). In addition, Adrian had its fewest losses since going 12-8 in 1975.

Adrian has spent 16 weeks in a row, dating to the 2018 campaign, in the ABCA/CBN Top-30, which also is a program record. The Bulldogs debuted at No. 26 in the preseason rankings on Dec. 19, and climbed to as high as No. 8 on March 26.

The Bulldogs are set to bring back a lot of experience from their historic squad, led by ABCA/Rawlings Division III All-America Second Team shortstop Thomas Miller (Saline, Mich.). The junior tied teammate Gunner Rainey (Adrian, Mich./Madison High School), the 2019 MIAA Player of the Year, for the conference lead with 50 runs batted in, topped the conference with 100 total bases and 186 at-bats and ranked second with 71 hits, third with a .382 batting average and 49 runs scored, fourth with a .538 slugging percentage and four sacrifice flies, fifth with 13 doubles, sixth with four home runs and 11th with a .438 on-base percentage.

Miller is one of six position starters returning and among four All-MIAA standouts from 2019. Rainey, a converted outfielder now senior catcher, is a two-time first-team all-conference and 2019 first-team all-region performer, recording personal records in every offensive category including taking the conference's batting title with a .411 average. He also tied for first with 50 RBI. Rainey is the Bulldogs' active leader with 191 career hits, which ranks in seventh place on the AC all-time chart. Senior infielder Brady Wood (Frankenmuth, Mich.) is a two-time all-conference first-team honoree produced a .353/.426/.479 slashline and had 47 RBI--12 more than his previous best. Junior outfielder Brandon Cooper (Ann Arbor, Mich./Ann Arbor Huron) went .393/.456/.640 with a team-best six home runs and 34 RBI as a second-team all-conference choice in his first year as a starter.

Pitching may be the Bulldogs' best weapon and that corps features 2019 MIAA Pitcher of the Year and D3baseball.com Mideast Rookie of the Year Max Denny (South Lyon, Mich.), who also was second-team ABCA All-Mideast Region. The lefty tied a school record by starting his freshman campaign with a 9-0 won-lost record, which led the MIAA and ranked 11th in NCAA Division III. He also led the conference with a 2.10 earned-run average and had a fifth-leading 55 strikeouts in 60 innings of work. Junior Mo Hanley (Tampa, Fla./Chamberlain HS), another left-hander, earned third-team all-region while compiling career bests (with MIAA rankings in parentheses) of 2.49 ERA (2nd), 71 strikeouts (1st), 10.42 strikeouts per 9 innings (1st), .172 opponents' batting average (9th) and 61.1 innings (5th). He finished 5-1 on the season and ranked 17th in Division III by giving up only 5.75 hits per nine innings. In addition, there are formidable right-handers in junior Jordan Williams (Westland, Mich./Lutheran Westland HS) and senior Pierce Banks (Sterling Heights, Mich./Parkway Christian HS) who are former all-conference and -region picks. Last season, Williams went 7-1 with 51 strikeouts in 52.1 innings while Banks was 8-2 with 67 punch-outs in 68.2 innings and a 3.67 ERA. 

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