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Baseball - Tue, Feb. 7, 2012
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JACKSON, Tenn. - Cumberland University has been selected as the favorite in the 2012 TranSouth Conference Baseball Preseason Coaches' Poll. Cumberland, the 2011 regular season champion, earned five first place votes.
 
Union University was picked second and received the other three first place votes. Union claimed the 2011 TranSouth Tournament Championship, and along with Cumberland, advanced to the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round.
 

Martin Methodist College was voted third, Bethel University fourth, Freed-Hardeman University fifth, Mid-Continent (Ky.) University sixth, Lyon (Ark.) College seventh and Blue Mountain (Miss.) College eighth.

 
In addition, the NAIA also released their preseason rankings in November with three TranSouth teams listed. Cumberland is ranked No. 7, while Union is ranked No. 14. Martin Methodist is listed in the receiving votes category.
 
2011 TranSouth Baseball Preseason Poll   |  NAIA Preseason Poll                                           
#  School - POINTS (1st Place Votes)
1.  Cumberland - 61 (5)
2.  Union - 59 (3)
3.  Martin Methodist - 43    
4.  Bethel - 42                           
5.  Freed-Hardeman - 34     
6.  Mid-Continent - 22          
7.  Lyon - 19                               
8.  Blue Mountain - 8
 
#TRANSOUTH#

TEAM OUTLOOKS

BETHEL UNIVERSITY WILDCATS:
McKENZIE, Tenn. - Entering his fifth season, Coach Rusty Thompson (107-82) and his staff look to build on the 27-22 record and runner up finish in the 2011 TranSouth Tournament. Picked 4th in the TranSouth Preseason poll, the Wildcats return one first team Transouth and five second team Transouth All-Conference players.

 
"We look to improve on last year's tournament success. We feel like we have a good returning class to go with a solid recruiting class. We feel the arms that we have will solidify our pitching staff. We think we can compete each weekend. We feel we will play solid defense and do small things offensively to put us in position to win games," said Coach Thompson.
 
Back this season is second team all-conference and TranSouth Gold Glove second baseman Cody Crocker. Crocker will move to shortstop this season. All-TranSouth outfielder Chris Cain will be back along with second team all-conference extra hitter Celtic Rush. Adding pop to the offensive attack will also be Jordan Stack who was a second team all-conference DH. Joey Wilder who developed into the ace of the pitching staff last returns. He was named to the second team all-conference team last year.
 
Here are other key members of the 2012 squad:
Outfielders
Brian Ferrell (Jackson State), Lance Jarreld (Walters State), Josh Lindsey (Harding), Juniors Jordan Stack and JD Newsom, Freshman Alden Rakestraw (Cullman, AL)
 
Infielders - Third Base, Senior Chase Pilkenton and Freshman Ryne Bivens (Riverside). Shortstop - Junior Cody Crocker makes the move from second base where he was a 2011 second team TranSouth and Gold Glove selection. Second Base, Junior Brett Adams and two freshmen, Will Erwin (Adamsville), and Jordan Mobley (Arlington). First Base - Senior Chris Cain 2010 First TeamTranSouth, Sophomore Celtic Rush 2011 Second Team, and Brooks Oursler (Ole Miss).
 
Catchers - Junior Tyler Roberson and Freshman David Gardner (Hopkinsville, KY)
 
Pitchers - Pair of SEC Transfers RHP Brooks Oursler (Ole Miss), RHP Spencer Clifft (Tennessee), along with Junior LHP Gary Ward (Pitt CC), Junior RHP Jason Overton (Columbia State), and Junior RHP Michael Freeman (Dyersburg State) join the Wildcat Pitching Staff in 2012.
 
Returners: Junior Joey Wilder, 2011 Second Team TranSouth, Junior Cade Chambers, Sophomore Turner Bush, and Seniors, Glenn Smith and Gavin Lindsey.
 
The Wildcats open their season February 8 at CBU.


BLUE MOUNTAIN COLLEGE TOPPERS:
BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss. - Even after a disappointing season-opening weekend, Blue Mountain College coach Curt Fowler can already see a difference in the Toppers' baseball program.    
"We're much better on defense and we get after it pretty good at the plate, too," said Fowler whose Toppers dropped three games at No. 15 Belhaven University last week. "Once we get our pitching squared away I think we'll be OK."
 
Fowler is counting on a year of experience TranSouth Athletic Conference and the NAIA translating into more wins.
 
"I feel like we had a decent first season last year," said the BMC coach, whose Toppers finished 16-35 and 4-20 in their inaugural season. "It was an exciting time for all of us, but now all that is in the past and we've got something to build on."

Fowler noted that most of last season's offensive leaders are back, and newcomers have already made BMC stronger.


Outfielder Gardner Richey from Tupelo, a transfer from Samford, had four hits against Belhaven, including a two-run home run, and drove in three runs. Outfielder and designated hitter Zack Scott had a two-run double, and shortstop Dalton Kulas from Olive Branch, a transfer from Mississippi Delta Community College, pounded out four singles and made only one error in 13 chances on defense.

 
On offense, the Toppers will be led by senior outfielder Seth Kennedy, senior infielder Ben Wallis, and senior designated hitter Channing Walker.
 
Kennedy, second team all-conference last season, hit .353 with 12 doubles, 3 home runs and 15 runs batted in. Wallis earned honorable mention All-TSAC after hitting .337 and a team leading 36 RBI. Walker hit .295 and drove in 19 runs while starting 43 games at 7 different positions.
 
"It might not have shown up in the record last year, but we got better as the season progressed," he said. "Opening at Belhaven wasn't easy but it gave us a good look at ourselves and we know where we need to improve if we want to compete in a conference as good as the TranSouth."


CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS:
LEBANON, Tenn. - Cumberland returns just three starters and four pitchers who tossed more than 25 innings from last year's 46-16 club, including Preseason First Team All-American Mike Mandarino. The senior batted. 370 with 19 doubles, 18 home runs, 66 RBIs and 50 runs scored last season while also posting a 5-3 record with a 4.37 earned-run-average and 35 strikeouts in 47.1 innings of work on the mound. He ranked sixth in the NAIA in home runs and total bases (153) and in the Top 25 in RBIs, doubles and slugging percentage.      
The other two returning starters are outfielders Richie Seaton and Antonio Butler, both of whom will have to fight for playing time in a very crowded outfield. Newcomers Brodie Ross, Leo Sierra, Nick Sydnor, Craig Monson, William Henderson and Chris Del Bianco will all see playing time at the beginning of the season.
 
Chipper Smith, a lefthander from College of Southern Nevada, will anchor the Bulldog staff and will be joined by veteran Keith Kirby, who registered a 4-4 mark with a 2.54 ERA in 49.2 innings of work last season. Sophomore Devin Stovall recorded three victories in 10 appearances last season in 25.0 innings of work and senior Cody Ferrell, who was 2-1 in seven games and 29.1 innings in 2011, will also start at times.
 
Behind the plate Heath Holliday starts the year with an injury, but has good blood lines. His first cousin is St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday. Tyler Wheeler will play behind the plate and at third base and is a good hitter.
 
The infield will see plenty of new faces, with Mandarino at first and third base. Vanderbilt transfer Sam Lind, the 2010 Arizona Community College Player of the Year, will play second base, and Cory Urquhart will start at shortstop, a player who originally signed with South Alabama. At third base Wheeler will see some time as well as Josh McGee, a really good hitter, who will also play some first base and at designated hitter. Daniel Harrison and Ben Foster are both veteran players who will fill in at spots on the infield as well.


FREED-HARDEMAN UNIVERSITY LIONS:
HENDERSON, Tenn. - If the 2012 Lions look like they returned a lot of familiar faces, it is because they did. Coach Jonathan Estes returns starters at eight positions and the top five pitchers in innings pitched from a team that rallied to go 9-3 in conference play the final four weeks of the season to secure its seventh straight conference tournament appearance. The Lions figure to rely on experience with 11 position players that had at least 15 starts last season and the addition of four transfers that started at their previous institution. The mound will be a place of familiarity as well with well over 600 college innings returning for a pitching staff that looks to be as deep as it is talented.      
"We have almost an entire roster of players that have been recruited by the current coaching staff so we feel this year will be a good test of where we are and where we want to go," said Estes.  "I think ‘experience' is the best word to describe what we have with this team. We won't go through anything this year that hasn't already been experienced by these guys."
 
After having just two seniors last year, that combined for just three seasons of competition, the Lions look to 14 seniors to help them reach the NAIA Opening Round for the first time in school history.
 
"Having a bunch of seniors doesn't automatically mean you will be successful. We've talked to these guys and they understand what is at stake. You can feel there is a sense of urgency with these guys and that is good for the entire program," Estes said.
 
The Lions look to improve upon last season's 4.94 team ERA with a collection of solid returners and newcomers. Hunter Newby, Roberto Ferguson, Andy Southard, and Charlie Overturf all return as weekend starters. Junior College transfer Daniel Wallace figures to pitch meaningful innings on the weekends to round out a solid rotation of arms. Amos Bingham has also started weekends during his career and could provide valuable depth if any of the top five go down.
 
Drew Suttles returns to anchor the bullpen after leading the team in appearances (25), ERA (2.81), and saves (5) as a freshman. The depth of the bullpen is a highlight for the Lions this season. Senior right-handers Bingham and Jonathan Soto along with southpaw Matt Singleton give the staff plenty of middle and late inning support. Left-handers Ryan Wood and Eric Tompkins give the Lions two additional experienced arms after assuming major roles on the junior varsity squad the last two seasons.
 
Sophomores Jake Francis and Joe Creasy as well as freshmen Ryan Fares and Keith Smith will look to take advantage of early opportunities. Sophomores Mark Malone and CT Palmer and freshmen Jackson Lockhart and Jordan Powell round out the pitching staff and will mostly be used to gain seasoning at the junior varsity level.
 
The one position the Lions had to replace from 2011 was behind the plate where only two starts return.  Senior Josh Goodwin enjoyed a full fall season with the Lions after transferring in at Christmas break in 2011. Junior College transfer Ryan Seaton earned high praises in the fall from the pitching staff because of his blue collar approach and his ability to negate the running game. Highly anticipated freshman Jake Todd rounds out the catching trio after having a productive fall.
 
The Transouth Conference will be hard pressed to find another infield with as much experience as the Lions in 2012. Joe Mike, Evan Mansell, and Robert Prieto have been fixtures in the line-up over the past three years and Kyle Dearing returns after starting 52 games as a freshman. Senior transfer Ben Ihde has started all three of his previous seasons as well to give the Lions another potent bat and steady glove.
 
Mike returns at first base after hitting a combined .311 in his first two seasons. A summer in the Ohio Valley Collegiate League may have helped push the right-handed swinger over the hump after hitting .301 in the wood bat league. Storm Bates returns to the team after injury ended his 2011 campaign before it ever started. Bates has the ability to play either corner infield position and could see time off the bench as a left-handed bat.
 
Prieto returns for his junior campaign after hitting .391 with 32 doubles and 40 stolen bases in his first two seasons. Prieto will make the switch in positions to second base this season after starting the previous two years at shortstop. Dearing moves over to shortstop after spending 2011 at second base. Dearing led the Lions last season with 35 stolen bases after getting on base at a .442 clip. Three sophomores and a junior provide depth in the middle infield. Lincoln Lakoff returns after hitting .293 in 17 starts as a freshman, mostly at DH. Dustin Speight appeared in 32 games as a freshman with his ability to play three infield positions and all three outfield positions. Tyler Anderson and Corbin Clark provide depth at second with Anderson having the ability to move to short or third if needed.
 
Mansell figures to return to the clean-up spot after driving in 41 runs with seven home runs and 15 doubles as the starting third baseman. Mansell earned post-season All-Star honors in the New York Collegiate League this summer. Ihde transfers from Lambuth University where he was the starting third baseman for the Eagles. Ihde, a 2006 Cincinnati Reds draft pick, can play either corner position and brings much needed left-handed pop to the order.
 
Justin Mackey returns to center field after a breakout sophomore season that saw him hit .409 with a .504 on-base percentage. Both numbers are among the all-time leaders at FHU. Seniors Kirkland Wheeler, Jesse Hykes and Tyler Wilson all saw significant action in the outfield as well last year with Wheeler making 49 starts and Hykes and Wilson making 28 and 25, respectively.
 
Senior Blake Taylor returns after being the primary courtesy runner the past three years. Taylor has 42 career stolen bases in 42 career at bats. Jake Francis will pull double duty this season as a pitcher and position player. Francis hit .250 in 15 starts last year.
 
Two newcomers figure to see opportunities in the outfield for the Lions. Three Rivers (Mo.) Community College transfer Ryan Grigaitis has the ability to play in the infield or outfield and should help boost an already established line-up. Freshman Pete Trollinger impressed coaches in the fall with a smooth left-handed swing and plus-abilities on defense. Juniors Matt Seevers and Seth Brothers join freshmen Mark Salisbury, Matt Gothard, and Mason Cothren as additional outfielders that will try to crack the rotation.


MARTIN METHODIST COLLEGE REDHAWKS:
PULASKI, Tenn. - Martin Methodist baseball has earned a third-place pick from the TranSouth for the upcoming season, and has been included in the receiving votes category in the NAIA preseason poll.  
 
The RedHawks capped a 25-23 season, 15-9 in TranSouth, in 2011 with a third place finish in the TSAC tournament, falling to eventual champion Union. Third year coach Kelly Bratton lost All-American Travis Garcia to the completion of his career, but Garcia joins the coaching staff, along with former players Jordan Hedges and Drew Donnelly. Chris Lovett and Brock Williams also join the staff, while second-year assistant Jody evans continues his stint with MMC.
 
MMC returns senior pitchers Steven Dodson and Brock Glass, along with shortstop Matt Franklin, who will all be expected to lead their 2012 squad. Glass was among the top of the TranSouth as a closer last season, and will join the starting rotation, while Dodson struck out 40 batters in 54.0 innings for MMC in 2011.
 
Martin Methodist brings in several junior college transfers, a group of nine, highlighted by Northwest Shoals Community College players, junior Nick Flanagan and sophomore Clint Gobbell. The two outfielders compliment infielder junior Matt Thomas, all expected to make immediate impact. 
 
MMC opens the season with a host of road games that begins February 4th at Emmanuel College, and includes contests with NCAA Division II University of North Alabama and University of Alabama-Huntsville. Their home opener will be February 11 and 12 during a series with Georgetown College.


MID-CONTINENT UNIVERSITY COUGARS:
MAYFIELD, Ky. - As Mid-Continent University baseball coach begins his fourth season at the helm of the program, the Cougars enter the 2012 season looking to build off the momentum they build in 2011. The Cougars return 15 players from a squad that posted 25 wins a year ago, and Coach Yarbrough and his staff have worked tirelessly to bring in a host of talent to complement those returning players. Yarbrough believes that the Cougars are in position to contend in the TranSouth in 2012.      
Pitching
The Cougars returning lineup is headlined by a pitching staff led by Tomas Rodriguez. Rodriguez is coming off a 2011 campaign in which he posted a 6-6 mark with four complete games and one shutout.  "Rodriguez brings tremendous mound presence at the top of the rotation," said Yatbrough. "He gives us quality outings every time he gets the ball and that gives us a great chance to win."
 
He will be joined in the rotation by Cale Bastien, a junior transfer from Kaskaskia College. He is a control pitcher who possesses good composure and a great mentality on the mound. Yarbrough notes that the third spot in the weekend rotation is currently a wide-open race that could be filled by several arms Tyler Krough, Seth McCabe, Woody Stewart, and Corey Ames will all vie for that third weekend spot, while also seeing time in the midweek along with Caleb Luttrell and Tyler Hall.
 
Hunter Burge returns to the mix as the team's established closer, a role he cemented during the 2011 season. He will be joined in the bullpen by Hall and Jordyn Abell, along with McCabe and Kyle Bugg. Yarbrough will look to McCabe and Bugg in situations that call for a matchup left hander.
 
Catching
The 2012 version of the Cougars will carry three catchers, something Yarbrough notes is new for his program. Drew Bennett had a great fall swinging the bat, and Yarbrough said while the race for the starting catcher is wide open, Bennett holds a slight edge to be the opening day starter behind the plate. "We were very pleased with the way Drew hit the ball this fall," Yarbrough stated. "All three of these guys could end up starting for us, but right now, Drew has the inside track."
 
Sam Cheng returns for his senior season, the last remaining player from the Will Russell era. Cheng is a solid defensive catcher, who possesses a strong arm and holds runners well. "Sam is capable of completely shutting down an opponent's running game," Yarbrough explained. "He's a veteran baseball guy who really helps make our team better defensively."
 
Joseph Blair is the third catcher on the roster, and though he is younger than the other two, his skill set puts him right in the mix as well. "Joseph is probably the best all-around catcher we have," stated Yarbrough. "We know when we put Joseph back there he can get the job done both offensively and defensively."
 
Infielders
The infield for Mid-Continent's 2012 squad is shaping up to be perhaps the best in the history of the program, and is anchored at the corners by some veteran players. At first base, the Cougars have a pair of transfers that will both see extended time at the position. Jordan Adams comes to Mid-Continent from North Iowa Area Community College, and Cable McMinn enters the mix after playing at Lambuth University. Both guys are middle of the order type of bats: Adams swings the bat right handed, while McMinn hits from the left side. "Both of these guys will help us a lot offensively," Yarbrough explained. "They both hit all pitches well, and they hit to all fields with power. The likelihood is that whichever of these guys is not in the lineup at first base will be in the mix as a designated hitter for our ballclub."
 
At third base, the Cougars boast solid defense with a pair of guys who bring solid defense to the hot corner, while benefiting the team in slightly different ways offensively. Thomas Whittington is a power bat with good lateral range defensively, and Daniel Edwards brings good speed and a scrappy approach to the mix, without sacrificing on the defensive side of the ball. "Daniel figures to split time between third base and left field this season," Yarbrough said. "He is a top or bottom of the order type of hitter who really runs the bases well. Whittington is more of a three-hole type of a guy, who is a sneaky fast runner."
 
Up the middle, the Cougars feature three guys who are not only strong defenders, but bring an element of small ball to the Cougars offense. Ray Fuentes and Richard Arias both have strong arms and will see plenty of time at shortstop, while Trevor Buford will play a lot at the keystone sack, while also seeing some action at the DH position. "All three of these guys bring a similar style to the game offensively," explained Yarbrough, "the only real difference is one hits from the left side, one is a righty, and one is a switch hitter. That really gives us a lot of options up the middle."
 
Outfielders
The outfield rotation looks to be both deep and talented for the Cougars this season, as seven guys will compete for the three starting spots. In left field, along with Daniel Edwards, the Cougars will see transfer Hunter Bolden and Jordan Manney battling for time. Bolden and Manney are both strong, athletic, middle of the order type of guys, who figure to drive in their share of runs.
 
In center field, the Cougars will feature Spencer Anderson and Uriel Hawkins, both guys who have great speed. "Anderson is a tools guy," Yarbrough noted, "and he's probably one of the best guys we've ever had here. He hits well, runs well, and he will make everyone better. Hawkins is extremely fast and steals bases well. He will see time as defensive replacement when he's not starting, and he can play multiple positions."
Right field will feature Zack McCarthy, a junior from John A Logan College, along with Dylan Rasch from Southeast Illinois College. "Zack is a big strong guy who will see time as a DH as well," Yarbrough stated. "Dylan is a well-rounded player who is an athletic bottom of the order type of guy."
 
Outlook
The time is now for the Cougars according to Yarbrough. "Our expectations are high," he stated." We feel like we have all the pieces in place to win now. There is no reason for us to be sitting a home come tournament time."  The schedule will be tough for the Cougars, but it should help prepare the team for the always difficult TranSouth conference schedule.
 
"We scheduled a difficult non-conference slate this year in order to prepare us for the TranSouth season," Yarbrough said. "We play two different Ohio Valley Conference opponents - Murray State twice - in addition to a tough opening road trip to Georgia and South Carolina. We will be tested early, but we think that will be good for our ballclub."


LYON COLLEGE SCOTS:
BATESVILLE, Ark. - 2011-2012 has brought many new faces on the Lyon College campus as well as many new faces to the Lyon College Baseball Program.  These new faces will bring a new look and feel to the baseball program.  These new young Scots along with the old will be asked to navigate through an always tough TranSouth Baseball Schedule in 2012.  That 2012 Schedule will kick off with home dates of March 2nd and 3rd versus Bethel University and then the Scots will travel to Lebanon to take on the Bulldogs of (7)Cumberland University on the 10th and 11th of March.   The Scots will continue on the road to play Blue Mountain College on March 23th and 24th and return home to play the Red hawks of Martin Methodist College on March 30th and 31st.  Opening the month of April will send the Scots on the road again to the bluegrass state meeting with Mid-Continent University on the 6th and 7th , then returning them back to the confines of Scots Field to host the 12th ranked team in the country Union University Bulldogs.  Lyon will round out its TranSouth schedule with a trip to Henderson, TN to take on the Lions of Freed-Hardeman University.      
Hope springs eternal in the hearts of those in the Scottish hills of Lyon College.  The 2012 Lyon College Scots Baseball Team has brought in many new talents to join with the upperclassmen that remain from the 2011 season. The Scots will open their season at Oklahoma Wesleyan University on Friday February 3rd. Their home opener is scheduled for Tuesday February 7th versus Evangel University. The Scots are returning two Senior All-Conference players in RHP Josh McNatt and OF Michael Armenteros. The Scots are looking forward to another highly competitive and always entertaining season of TranSouth baseball.


TREVECCA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY TROJANS:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A new era of Trevecca baseball gets underway in 2011-2012 when Mike Lord takes over as the eighth head coach in the program's history. He replaces Jonathan Burton, who left after the 2010-2011 season to take another head coaching position. Lord brings more than 25 years of baseball coaching experience as a college head coach, bench coach, and pitching coach. He has also spent 12 years in major league baseball, nine years with San Diego Padres organization, and three more with the Boston Red Sox.  
 
Coach Lord's first Trevecca team brings back a 14-man nucleus from last season's 35-win club, which finished second in the TranSouth Conference regular season standings. Senior outfielder Matt Tidwell leads the returnees, bringing a .389 career batting average into his final season with the Trojans. Tidwell, who might also see some time at first base this season, is in the top ten all-time at Trevecca in hits (191), runs (128), doubles (47), and triples (12), and sits just outside the top ten in batting average and RBI (108). Joining Tidwell among the returning position players are junior outfielder Trae Weiss (.326 batting average, 22 RBI), senior infielders Michael Maxwell (.220, 18 RBI) and Matt Dobbins (.220, 19 RBI), and junior catcher Luke Fennell (.206, 12 RBI, 12 runners caught stealing). Senior right-hander Dylan Kuhn (4-2, 1.14 ERA, 48 K's, 3 saves) leads the returning hurlers, coming off one of the best seasons a Trojan reliever has ever had. Senior righthander Will Elkins, junior righthander Codi Webb, and sophomore lefthander are the other returning
 
Trojan pitchers.
A 13-man group of newcomer arrives on campus, ready to help the Trojans in Coach Lord's first season. Pitchers Dakota Angell (Gallatin, Tenn.), Michael Donaldson (Dickson, Tenn.), Josh Parker (Jackson, Tenn.), Ryne Rayburn (Etowah, Tenn.), Rob Rowland (Franklin, Tenn.), Tyler Vakey (Bandera, Texas), and Matt Sigmund (Omaha, Neb.) are joined by outfielders Justin Holland (Hazel Green, Ala.), Blake Rogers (Lawrenceburg, Tenn.), and Jeffrey Scarritt (Spring Hill, Tenn.), infielders Mark Rayburn (Etowah, Tenn.) and Ty Wallin (Elkhart, Ind.), and catcher Caleb Knox (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) on the Trojans' 2011-2012 roster.
 
Trevecca once again has a very challenging schedule, starting with a six-game trip south for a pair of three-game series in early February against Spring Hill (Ala.) College and Auburn-Montgomery. The Trojans return home from the trip to south Alabama for a 10-game homestand, beginning with a matchup against Milligan College in mid-February and culminating with a three-game set with Union to open TranSouth play in early March. In addition to playing Union, Trevecca will play TranSouth opponents Blue Mountain, Mid-Continent, and Cumberland at home, while traveling to play Bethel, Lyon, Freed-Hardeman, and Martin Methodist on the road.
 
The Trojans' non-conference slate includes home-and-home dates with Campbellsville, Tennessee Wesleyan, and St. Catharine, a three-game series at Jackson Field with Indiana Wesleyan, and a home doubleheader against Taylor (Ind.) University. Trevecca also plays single home games against Bryan, Faulkner, and IU-Southeast and will make a trip to perennial power Lee for a game in late March.


UNION UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS:
JACKSON, Tenn. - The Union University Bulldogs enter the 2012 season with high expectations. Last season the Bulldogs posted a 38-17 overall record and a 16-8 record in conference play. Union enters this season as the defending TranSouth Conference champions. The Bulldogs received a No. 14 preseason ranking in NAIA and are picked to finish second in the TranSouth.      
The Bulldogs lost five top players to graduation, including two starters. Head coach Brent Fronabarger and first time assistant coach Justin Hogan have assembled a talented group of players, including nineteen returning players and seven newcomers.
 
The Bulldogs will be led by the largest class on the roster. The senior class is made up of eleven players, including R.J. Rayborn, Kian Jost, Clint Barnes, Danny Grimm, Doug Joyce, Brett Pawlan, Tim Anderson, Jeremey Stack, Will Irvin, and Justin Bryan. Ten of the eleven are all returners and nine started a majority of Union's games last season. Joyce was named NAIA Preseason All-American and was named to the first team all-conference and received gold glove honors last season. Stack was also named to the first team all-conference. Grimm received gold glove honors for his defensive play last season. Barnes played in 51 of Union's 55 games and will lead the outfield in center. Jost started 45 games in the outfield for the Bulldogs and will see a significant amount of playing time in 2012. Rayborn is a returning second baseman. Pawlan returns after leading the Bulldogs in stolen bases with 18. Anderson returns for his third season, having provided quality backup at the catching position. Bryan will redshirt this year after pitching in eleven games last season. Irvin will be an influential part in the Bulldog pitching rotation after transferring from Auburn University.
 
The junior class is made up of seven players, five of whom are returning. Derek Roof, Benjie Fesmire, Cole McAdams, David Leisey, and Jared Davis all return from the 2011 season. Two newcomers join the junior class, including Kody Pinson and John Reed. McAdams returns after being named to the second team allconference and receiving gold glove honors. Davis returns as a top pitcher for the Bulldogs and was named to the first team all-conference last season. Roof returns and will see a significant amount of playing time on the mound. Fesmire played in twelve games last season and will be called on to pitch and play second base. Leisey played in two games and will contribute to the pitching rotation.
 
Four sophomores make up the Bulldog roster. Kyle Bryan, Wacey Russell, and Colin Hatch are all returners and Hunter Smith will begin his first season with the Bulldogs. Hatch redshirted last season, but will be called on to help in the pitching rotation. Bryan played in 32 games last season in the outfield. Russell appeared in 51 games and stole 14 of 17 bases and will contribute with his speed this season.
 
The freshman class is made up of four players. Jacob Alexander, Logan Wall, Jim Martin, and Will Embry will start their college careers with the Bulldogs. Martin redshirted last season, but will be called on to provide depth at first base this season.