FOREST, Va. --- The top two teams from last season's ODAC Baseball Preseason Poll flipped places in the 2019 edition as Randolph-Macon College stands atop reigning ODAC champion Shenandoah University and the remaining 10 conference teams in the annual head coaches' survey. The Yellow Jackets earned nine first place votes on the way to a chart-topping 119 tallies, while the Hornets picked up two top nods as part of a 110-point haul.
Roanoke College, a year removed from hoisting the league hardware, received the remaining first place vote on the way to 96 tallies. Virginia Wesleyan University sits just one point back at 95 markers, creating a separation between the Marlins and fifth-slotted Hampden-Sydney College (76 points).
The 2018 season was a banner campaign in nearly all areas beginning with four squads eclipsing 30 overall victories -- Randolph-Macon (38-9-1), Shenandoah (35-12), Roanoke (31-11), and Virginia Wesleyan (31-16) with R-MC and VWU setting program records for wins. ODAC teams also played under a new tournament format for the first time with eight teams making the field and playing in a two weekend format. Top-seeded Randolph-Macon was joined by #2 Virginia Wesleyan, #3 Roanoke, and #4 Shenandoah in winning opening weekend best-of-3 series to punch their tickets to Lynchburg City Stadiumn for double-elimination play.
Weather played a role in the second weekend with the four teams competing thru an altered format. They ended up playing one fewer game than the maximum under the double-elimination rules, but extra baseball still featured in the final. Shenandoah and Roanoke were tied at 4-all thru nine frames, but the Hornets lit up the scoreboard with four runs in the top of the 10th to lock up the program's second ODAC championship.
RELATED: ODAC Tournament Website
The fun continued for three squads in the NCAA Tournament, and they did not disappoint in continuing the league's recent trend of success on the national stage. Randolph-Macon, Shenandoah, and Virginia Wesleyan all won at least one game. The Marlins earned wins over Castleton (4-3), Union (N.Y)(10-4), and Rowan (9-6) before bowing out of regional play in York, Pa., to Misericordia. Shenandoah defeated Marietta (3-2) in its opening game in Adrian, Mich., before losses to Wooster and Ithaca capped their seasons.
Randolph-Macon's story featured another chapter. The Yellow Jackets swept thru regional play in Holly Springs, N.C., posting triumphs over LaGrange (2-1), Denison (6-1), and twice versus Christopher Newport (4-3 and 11-2) to secure a spot in the Division III World Series.
In the final championship series hosted in Appleton, Wis., Randolph-Macon opened with a 4-2 loss to Misericordia, but then went on a three-game run. R-MC thumped Oswego, 11-4, avenged its loss to Misericordia, 14-6, before what would become two contests against Texas-Tyler. The Yellow Jackets earned a win in first matchup against the previously unbeaten Patriots, 6-1, to setup a showdown for a spot in the final best-of-3 series. UT-T won the second game, 6-1, and went on to eventually claim the national championship.
RELATED: NCAA Tournament Results
ODAC teams have earned a little preseason fanfare from D3baseball.com entering the 2019 slate. Randolph-Macon opens the year ranked fifth in the pundit's top-25 preseason poll. Shenandoah sits in that 25th spot, while Roanoke is among several schools receiving votes to the listing.
Two ODAC student-athletes received preseason All-America nods from D3baseball. Virginia Wesleyan pitcher and designated hitter Jacob Pilarski earned a second team spot at utility, while Shenandoah designated hitter Keegan Woolford earned honorable mention recognition.
RELATED: D3baseball.com Preseason Top-25 | D3baseball.com Preseason All-Americans
Returning ODAC rosters feature 19 All-ODAC honorees from a season ago, leaving fans with plenty of familiar faces but also opportunity for new athletes to shine.
Shenandoah heads the list with five 2018 honorees back in Winchester highlighted by Woolford and fellow All-ODAC First Team choice Grant Thompson in the outfield. First baseman Luke Nussman, second baseman Tristan Baker, and shortstop Robert Marcelle earned second team distinction and form a solid nucleus in the dirt for SU.
Randolph-Macon and reigning ODAC Coach of the Year Ray Hedrick welcome back four all-conference standouts, but also must replace the services of ODAC Pitcher of the Year Colin Selby, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in June. Three of the returners feature on the first team in catcher Reece Yeargain, second baseman Jeff Butler, and outfielder Ryan Duphorn. They're joined by second team starter Nick Roth.
Bridgewater College, Hampden-Sydney College, Roanoke, and Virginia Wesleyan each boast two returning All-ODAC players. The Eagles welcome back a pair of third team choices in starter Chad Lenz and DH Cameron Stanley. The Tigers also look to a pair of third teamers in second baseman Andrew Kasiski and pitcher Jonathan Triesler.
Much like Randolph-Macon, Roanoke must replace a major award winner from last season in ODAC Player of the Year Sean Guida. Jack Howard and Will Salva will be two players looking to pick up the load. Howard earned a spot as the first team third baseman, while Salva was the second team DH in addition to receiving ODAC Rookie of the Year laurels. Virginia Wesleyan will be interested in seeing what Pilarski has in store for an encore both on the hill and at the dish after a first team selection last season. He's joined by third team first baseman Brady Fallon.
The remaining two All-ODAC returners wear Eastern Mennonite University and Emory & Henry College jerseys. Brett Lindsay returns to EMU after a second team selection at third base, while Ben Sexton earned third team recognition as an outfielder for E&H.
RELATED: 2018 All-Conference Awards
The 2019 season begins with non-conference play on Friday, February 8. The first set of ODAC contests are slated for Saturday and Sunday, March 9-10.
The ODAC Tournament continues the new eight-team format for a second year. The first weekend is set for May 3-5. The four opening series winners will advance to a new location this season, although one not unfamiliar to ODAC baseball. Salem Memorial Ballpark will be the venue for the double-elimination final weekend from May 10-12. It has previously hosted ODAC baseball championships in 1982, 2001, 2002, and 2005. In addition to 2019, Salem Memorial will also host the 2020 league championship.
Listed below is the complete 2019 ODAC Baseball Preseason Poll. For more information on ODAC baseball, visit the websites of any of the participating schools, or go to the ODAC's home on the Internet at www.odaconline.com. Don't forget to become a fan of the ODAC on Facebook and follow @odacathletics on Twitter and odacathletics on Instagram.
|2019 ODAC BASEBALL PRESEASON POLL|
|(#) Denotes First Place Votes|
|1. Randolph-Macon College (9)||119 pts.|
|2. Shenandoah University (2)||110 pts.|
|3. Roanoke College (1)||96 pts.|
|4. Virginia Wesleyan University||95 pts.|
|5. Hampden-Sydney College||76 pts.|
|6. Ferrum College||71 pts.|
|7. University of Lynchburg||57 pts.|
|8. Washington and Lee University||46 pts.|
|9. Bridgewater College||42 pts.|
|10. Guilford College||38 pts.|
|11. Eastern Mennonite University||24 pts.|
|12. Emory & Henry College||18 pts.|