FREELAND, Mich. – Defending champion Adrian College has been picked as the preseason favorite to repeat as Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association baseball champions.
The Bulldogs, who have won six consecutive MIAA championships and all three tournaments since the MIAA began its postseason tournament in 2012, received seven out of eight first-place votes in the preseason poll of the league's coaches. Hope, which was picked to finish second, received the other first-place vote.
Preseason poll results (first-place votes in parenthesis): 1. Adrian (7) 7 pts. 2. Hope 13 (1). 3. Calvin 26. 4. Albion 28. 5. Kalamazoo 30. 6. Trine 34. 7. Alma 37. 8. Olivet 49.
The Bulldogs are fresh off their best postseason since 2008 when they advanced to the NCAA Division III World Series. Last year, the Bulldogs won three games at the Midwest Regional hosted by Wisconsin-Whitewater. In the end the Warhawks' home-field advantage proved to be too much as they won the regional and also went on to win the national championship.
This year's team has some pretty big shoes to fill especially in the starting rotation. Three everyday starters have graduated but senior Eric Schmidt has been a workhorse over the last three seasons. Schmidt is the most experienced pitcher on the roster and was named Second Team All-MIAA a year ago despite missing the MIAA Tournament and NCAA Midwest Region due to injury. Schmidt who has amassed a career record of 21-3 with a 2.99 earned-run average is expected to carry the load. Jordan Frayer and Cole Knaup are also expected to be penciled into the rotation. Frayer showed promise with a strong effort in the Midwest Region picking up a win. Knaup is a transfer from Jackson College who will be needed to shine immediately. Tommy Eng has been a closer in the past and right now might just remain in the bullpen or possibly start if needed. His versatility is something that the coaches really like as he also batted .364 in limited action of 44 at-bats.
Drew Shutes returns in the outfield for the Bulldogs after starting 46 games in his first season with the team. Shutes batted .287 and was used in several spots of the lineup including leadoff man in the Midwest Regional. He ranked third on the team in at-bats and fourth in hits a year ago. Ryan Dorow turned in a freshman season for the ages in 2014. The shortstop was named Third Team All-American and National Rookie of the Year by D3Baseball.com. Dorow batted .500 (10-for-20) in the Midwest Regional and .392 for the season. His season numbers ranked first at Adrian College in doubles (21), third in assists (129), tied for third in hits (67), tied for fifth in total bases (105) and tied for 10th in RBI (40).