01/04/13 — Mount Olive baseball ranked third in preseason poll

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Mount Olive baseball ranked third in preseason poll

By MOC Sports Information
Published in Sports on January 4, 2013 1:47 PM

MOC Sports Information

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive earned a preseason top five national ranking for the second straight year, coming in at No. 3 in the 2013 Collegiate Baseball Division II Preseason Poll, as voted on by members of the American Baseball Coaches Association. The Trojans were ranked No. 5 in last year's preseason poll and spent three weeks at No. 1 during the regular season.

Mount Olive posted a 44-10 record last year and played host to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional for the second consecutive year as the Trojans won their third straight Conference Carolinas championship. The Trojans were 21-5 in conference play in 2012.

The Trojans return seven of 11 All-Conference Carolinas players from last year, including an All-America and two starting pitchers.

Senior catcher Geno Escalante was a consensus first team All-America in 2012 and was named Daktronics Southeast Region Player of the Year. Escalante enters the 2013 season on a 46-game hitting streak, tied for the fourth longest in Division II baseball history. He led the nation with 98 hits last year and was among the national leaders with a .436 batting average and 70 runs batted in.

Junior right-hander Matt Dillon was the 2012 Conference Carolinas Pitcher of the Year, posting a 9-2 record with a 2.81 earned run average. Junior left-hander Zach Smith was 8-2 with a 2.20 ERA and was named to the last year's All-Conference Carolinas first team.

The Trojans return four additional All-Conference Carolinas selections: outfielders Will Bynum and Braden Reitano, shortstop Mike Mercurio and third baseman Jermaine Berry.

Mount Olive collected 608 points in the poll, finishing only six points behind No. 2 Delta State (Miss.). West Chester (Pa.), which defeated Delta State in last year's national championship game at Cary, topped the poll with 628 points.

The Trojans' 2013 schedule includes contests against four teams ranked in the Preseason Top 40: No. 7 Francis Marion, No. 13 Catawba, No. 21 Le Moyne and No. 38 Armstrong (Ga.). Mount Olive also faces three non-conference teams that received votes in the poll, California (Pa.), Wingate and Winston-Salem State. In addition, the Trojans will have conference games against vote-getters Belmont Abbey, Erskine and King.

Mount Olive opens its season February 2-3 with a three-game non-conference series at Lenoir-Rhyne.

The Trojans' next eight dates, which include three doubleheaders, are all at Scarborough Field.

Mount Olive and the Town of Cary are co-hosting the NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals for the fifth consecutive year, and have been awarded the National Finals through 2015. The 2013 National Finals take place May 25-June 1 at USA Baseball National Training Complex.