Salisbury Edges Christopher Newport for Top Spot in CAC Baseball Preseason Poll
Salisbury Edges Christopher Newport for Top Spot in CAC Baseball Preseason Poll

WATCH: CAC Baseball Preseason Poll Video

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - Two-time defending champion Salisbury edged Christopher Newport for the top spot in the 2018 Capital Athletic Conference Baseball Preseason Poll. The Sea Gulls totaled six first-place votes and 78 points to narrowly edge out CNU (75 points, 4 first-place votes) in a vote among the conference head coaches. 

Marymount finished third in the voting with 62 points, followed by Frostburg State (54) and Mary Washington (46) in the top five. Wesley and York were deadlocked in a sixth-place tie with 40 points apiece. The CAC Tournament will once again feature six teams in 2018. 

Penn State Harrisburg took eighth place with 27 points, with St. Mary's (18) and Southern Virginia (10) rounding out the voting in ninth and 10th, respectively. 

The CAC Tournament will feature a new format in 2018, with the six-team postseason event spread across two weekends. The opening weekend (May 4-5) will feature a pair of three-team, double-elimination pods hosted by the top two seeds. The winners of those pods will square off the following weekend (May 11-12) at the highest remaining seeds' field. 

The 2018 season begins this weekend as Southern Virginia will compete in a three-game series with William Peace. CNU and Salisbury begin play on Feb. 10, with the majority of CAC teams opening their seasons in late February. CAC play begins on March 21. 

2018 CAC Baseball Preseason Poll

Rank 
Institution 
Points (First-Place Votes)
1. Salisbury 78 (6)
2. Christopher Newport 75 (4)
3. Marymount 62
4. Frostburg State 54
5.  Mary Washington 46
 6T.  Wesley 40
6T. York 40
8. Penn State Harrisburg 27
9.  St. Mary's 18
10.  Southern Virginia 14

Below is a brief preview of each team entering the 2018 campaign: 

CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT returns eight of 10 offensive starters and three of four starting pitchers to a squad that went 25-15 overall and 15-3 in CAC play last spring. Key returners for the Captains include senior lefthander Joe Burris, who was a second-team all-region pick by D3baseball.com and first-team All-CAC performer in 2017, senior DH Brandon Ginch (2017 All-CAC 1st team), and redshirt sophomore pitcher Thomas Packert, who ranked fourth in the CAC last season with a 2.95 ERA. 

A trio of All-CAC selections and a mix of talented newcomers will help power a hungry FROSTBURG STATE team in 2018. Head coach Guy Robertson enters his 11th season at the helm boasting the second-highest winning percentage in school history. Senior pitcher Greg Schneider, who earned All-CAC First Team honors each of the past two seasons, led the conference in strikeouts (103) and finished third in ERA (2.93) during the 2017 campaign. Schneider has been a model of consistency on the mound throughout his career and is the program's all-time strikeout leader with 292. Senior outfielder Matt Bougourd, a 2017 All-CAC Second Team selection, aims to provide power in the middle of the Bobcat lineup after leading the CAC in doubles (19) and extra-base hits (24). Senior Kyle Burger is also a 2017 All-CAC Second Team selection returning along the Bobcat outfield after ranking ninth in the conference with a .363 batting average.

MARY WASHINGTON welcomes back 11 starters to a team that made the CAC championship last year. Leading the way for the Eagles is senior David Slupek, who gained All-CAC honors in 2015, to go along with junior Stephen Johnston and sophomore Christian Hague who combined for 34 extra base hits and both hit over .300. On the mound, junior Hank Biggs and sophomore Cole Gabrielle are back to anchor the staff. Notable newcomers include Nicholas Bass, Mason Riser, Tyler Ray, and Colton Steber.

Veteran head coach Frank Leoni leads MARYMOUNT's young program into its fifth season in 2018, after graduating the first full class last year of 10 seniors. Returning four positional starters and nine pitchers, the Saints add 10 new faces as they look for their fourth-straight CAC playoff appearance. Leading the way is senior two-time All-CAC pitcher Collin Bazemore and junior shortstop and pitcher Connor Hall, both second-teamers in 2016. With speed on the bags, the league-leading Saints in stolen bases and triples last season also returns junior outfielder Luke Tyree who notched double-digit steals with Hall. 

PENN STATE HARRISBURG, led by sixth-year head coach Ryan Bown, will look to return to the CAC playoffs this season. Junior Brendan Riotto who had an ERA of 2.62 last season will lead the rotation. Offensively, the Lions return sophomore Brett Williams, who recorded a school recorded 53 hits last season and earned All-CAC second team accolades. 

ST. MARY'S is excited to take the diamond in two weeks time under the second-year leadership of Bernie Stratchko. The Seahawks put down solid ground work for a winning program last season and return four starters, including the team's leading hitter Jay Hammett. Hammett finished his first season as a Seahawk hitting .345 with 10 doubles while posting a .996 fielding percentage at first base. 

After coming within nine outs of a World Series berth in 2017, Head Coach Troy Brohawn and SALISBURY enter the 2018 season ranked No. 18 in the nation by D3baseball.com. Despite losing All-American pitcher Pete Grasso to graduation, the team returns seven of its starters from last season. Among those starters are four all-CAC players: shortstop Scott Ardoin, center fielder Justin Meekins, first baseman Jay Perry, and third baseman Jack Barry. Barry led the conference in homeruns in 2017 as a sophomore with 12. The team will look to win its 15th CAC championship and return to the NCAA Division III World Series for the first time since 2015.

SOUTHERN VIRGINIA will begin the 2018 campaign relying on 14 returners to make its first CAC Tournament and improve on last year's record. The Knights return Cole Critchfield (.390 BA) and Riley Daniels (8 HR) to the lineup, as well as starters Ryan Saunders, Ryan Morin, and Jordan Keefer. On the mound, the Knights will look to seniors Seth Burris, Tayler Peterson, and Jonathan Hodges to lead the rotation.

After graduating All-American outfielder and co-Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year Trey Mears, WESLEY looks to return to the CAC Tournament for the 11th consecutive year. The offense will be paced by senior infielder Chris Seibert. An All-CAC first team player in 2017, Seibert earned All-Region honors from ABCA/Rawlings, D3baseball.com and the ECAC. Seibert tied for the CAC lead in extra-base hits (24), ranked second in batting average (.411), RBI s(53) and slugging percentage (.716) and tied for second in in home runs (9). Seniors will carry the Wesley pitching staff, led by All-CAC second team honoree Alex Marrs. Marrs won eight games in 2017, good for third-best in the CAC. Marrs also ranked fourth in the CAC in strikeouts (78) and the fifth-lowest earned-run average (2.97). Fellow senior Cody Simet won five games a season ago while Sam Meck earned three wins in 2017.

YORK returns seven starters and will be seeking its first winning season since the 2014 campaign when the Spartans went 29-14. Leading the way among the Spartan returners is senior outfielder Seth Brosius, who earned All-CAC second team honors and ABCA All-South Region second team accolades in 2017.