Athens, TN - Tennessee Wesleyan is ranked 18th in the NAIA Baseball Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll, as announced by the National Office. The Bulldogs were picked second in a vote of league coaches in the 2012 Appalachian Athletic Conference Baseball Preseason Poll released by the League office.
The Bulldogs finished the 2011 season outside the final Top 25 Poll, but finished hot and won the AAC Tournament, the NAIA Opening Round Championship in Paducah, KY., and made their second straight appearance at the Avista NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. TWC returns three starters and five pitchers from last year's 40-21 club.
Infielders Stephen Branca and Anthony Boix return from a solid 2011 campaign. Branca hit.332 with 4 homeruns and 38 runs batted in, while Boix's hit .335 with 37 runs batted in and hit 4 homeruns. Outfielder Jordan Guida will make the transition from outfield to behind the plate for the Bulldogs in 2012. Guida hit .313 knocked in 45 runs and hit 8 homeruns. Devin Paschal and Tanner Quirk return for their senior season to add depth in the infield and outfield, respectfully. Josh McDaniel, Ben Crocker, Corey Collins, Noah Piard and Brad Frey return the core of arms from the 2011 club. McDaniel and Crocker made up two of the three weekend arms in 2011. McDaniel had a win-loss record of 7-3 with a 3.34 earned run average and 79 strikeouts while Crocker was 6-3 with a 4.64 earned run average and 45 strikeouts. Collins and Piard where go to arms out of the pen in 2011. Collins made 29 appearances with a 4-2 record with 54 strikeouts in 76.0 innings of work. Piard settled into the closer role with 6 saves, a 7-3 record with 64 strikeouts in 50.0 innings of work.
Tennessee Wesleyan has won eight of the last ten regular season Conference Championships, the most recent coming in 2010. The Bulldogs have also claimed Conference Tournament titles in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 2010, and 2011.
Union College received eight of the possible nine first place votes for a total of 64 points. Tennessee Wesleyan collected the other first place vote and came in second with 57 points. Milligan came in third with 47 points with Bluefield not far behind with 43 points. Bryan is fifth at 36 points, Reinhardt sixth at 27, and Montreat seventh at 22 points. Newcomer Point and Virginia Intermont tied for eighth with both receiving 15 points.
The Bulldogs open the 2012 season on January 28-29 in Montgomery, Alabama. TWC will face three teams selected in the Preseason Top 25 poll. Southern Poly (23) in game one on Saturday and Auburn Montgomery (13) in game two on Saturday. Embry Riddle (5) in game one on Sunday and Auburn Montgomery in game two on Sunday. The home opener is scheduled for February 8, at Jack Bowling Field vs. Shorter University.