HIGH POINT, N.C. - Mount Olive College is ranked No. 4 in the 2011 Baseball America and No. 7 in the ABCA Division II preseason polls.† The Trojans aim for their fifth conference championship and fifth NCAA Tournament bid in the last six years and take the top spot in this yearís league preseason poll as voted on by conference head coaches. Erskine came in second while Pfeiffer rounded out in third.†
Mount Olive returns one of the top hitters and one of the top pitchers in the region. Designated hitter Mike Knox set school records with 24 home runs and 94 runs batted in last year. Knox ranked second in the nation in RBI and fourth in home runs. He became the first player in school history to hit three home runs in a game twice in the same season.
Carter Capps posted a perfect 10-0 record with a 3.06 earned run average last year. He became only the second pitcher in Trojan history to go unbeaten with at least 10 wins and was one of only three pitchers in NCAA II last year to accomplish the feat. Capps had a better than 5-1 strikeout-walk ratio with 63 strikeouts and only 12 bases on balls in 79 innings pitched. He recorded six complete games, including two shutouts.
Erskine College was voted second in the preseason poll.† Following a 2010 season that saw the Erskine baseball team finish 41-17 with its second NCAA tournament appearance in the last three years and a final No. 17 national ranking, the Fleet will have a much different look for 2011.† After losing three All-Americans from last seasonís team including the National Player of the Year, Erskine will be counting on some younger players to step-up this season.
Although the Fleet offense lost the middle of their line up from 2010, Erskine will look to pick up where they left off.† The offense will be led by senior John Bolding who had an outstanding junior season hitting .406 with 20 doubles, 17 home runs and 89 RBI.† Joining Bolding will be sophomore Drew Willingham who hit .317 with 10 doubles and 10 home runs and 49 RBI while missing 15 games and junior shortstop Zac McCarthy who hit .328 with eight home runs.† Erskine will also be counting on freshmen Chase Corn, Will Huff, and Zach Smith to have solid years in 2011.
The Pfeiffer University Falcons were selected third in the preseason poll as voted on by the leagueís coaches. The Falcons will look to get back to the Conference Carolinas tournament championship again this year returning a core of All-Conference selections from 2010. Pfeiffer hit .321 as a team last season finishing just one out shy of a berth in the NCAA II Regional Tournament.
Leading the 2011 offense will be the likes of Preston Lyon and Eric Shoemaker, both first team all-conference selections last season. Lyon hit .344 starting in all 52 games with 12 home runs and 50 RBI. Shoemaker put together a stellar junior season hitting .326 with 13 homers and 56 RBI. Shoemaker belted a walk-off two-run blast against Mount Olive to hand the Trojans their first loss early in 2010.
Anchoring the pitching staff this season will be senior right-hander Luke Wilhelm. Wilhelm put together a 6-4 season in 2010 with a 3.41 ERA. Wilhelm fanned 86 hitters in 71.1 innings pitched being named to the conference and regionís second-team as well as the all-tournament team.
Rounding out the baseball preseason poll 4-8 is:† Belmont Abbey, Barton, Limestone, Coker, and St. Andrews respectively.