WLU Baseball Seen as Contender

Hilltoppers selected third in North Division, Jesuit is picked 6th

BRIDGEPORT — The rising West Liberty University baseball team received a first-place vote and was installed as one of the top contenders in the highly-competitive Mountain East Conference North Division in the MEC coaches’ annual preseason poll.

Coach Eric Burkle’s Hilltoppers, who were also among teams receiving votes in last month’s NCAA Division II Atlantic Region preseason balloting, joined Fairmont State just behind two-time defending champion Shepherd in the conference coaches’ voting.

The Rams had 8 of the 12 first-place votes to claim the top spot with 64 points while the Falcons got 3 first-place votes and 51 points to edge out the Hilltoppers (50) by a single point for No. 2 in the division. Notre Dame (41), Urbana (26) and Wheeling Jesuit (15) round out the division.

Wheeling Jesuit baseball team, under new coach Dan Abbenante, has arguably the youngest roster in the league.

Abbenante will have All-MEC Second Team pitcher Michael Finch back to lead his pitching staff. Finch recorded a 3.85 ERA over 46.2 innings in eight conference starts and finished seventh in the final MEC ERA rankings. The redshirt senior WJU hurler was also eighth in innings pitched among league pitchers.

Charleston and Concord were in a virtual dead heat for No. 1 in the South. Charleston claimed the top rung with 7 first-place votes and 61 points, one point ahead of the Mountain Lions (60) and their 5 first-place votes. West Virginia Wesleyan (42), West Virginia State (33), UVa-Wise (27) and Glenville State (23) completed the list.

The Hilltoppers’ season opening series against St. Augustine’s (N.C.) this weekend has been postponed due to a poor weather forecast. West Liberty will try to make its 2018 debut on Feb. 24 with a doubleheader against Slippery Rock (Pa.) in Holly Springs, N.C.