Baseball Team Picked to Finish 5th in HCAC

menich-pitchTERRE HAUTE, IND. -- The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology baseball team has been picked to finish fifth in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference this season, in a preseason poll of league coaches released today.

Head coach Jeff Jenkins looks for a bounce back season in his 25th year as head coach this spring.  The Fightin' Engineers finished 15-24 last season after winning the HCAC regular season championship in 2012.  The recent string of success has also included trips to the NCAA Division III Tournament in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Overall, Jenkins has a career mark of 646-433-2, including a 601-368-1 record at Rose-Hulman.  The Fightin' Engineer run of postseason success has included five NCAA Division III Tournament appearances, four conference tournament championships and three regular season league titles over the previous 24 years.

Rose-Hulman received 61 poll points to place fifth in the preseason poll.  The top four teams will ultimately qualify for the HCAC Baseball Tournament on May 8-10.

Anderson University was a slight favorite in the preseason poll, edging Manchester 88 points to 87.  The Ravens had four first place votes to three for Manchester.  Anderson finished 22-21 last season but returns the majority of last year's squad.

Manchester won the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional at Rose-Hulman to advance to the World Series in Wisconsin last spring.  The Spartans are ranked No. 7 nationally in the D3baseball.com Preseason Top 25 Poll. 

Franklin was selected to finish third in the league with 81 points and the remaining three first-place votes.  Transylvania received 68 points, followed by Rose-Hulman at 61.  Rounding out the poll were Defiance, Earlham, Bluffton, Hanover and Mount St. Joseph.

Rose-Hulman looks to rely on an experienced pitching staff for success this spring.  The Fightin' Engineers return their top four starting pitchers, their top closer and 10 total members of last year's staff.  Junior Ben Menich and sophomore Karson Nixon have been HCAC selections during their careers.

Offensively, the Fightin' Engineers return five starters led by two-time all-HCAC honoree Hank Akard.  The center fielder led the team in hitting (.333), doubles (12), runs (35), hits (51), on-base percentage (.417) and stolen bases (14) last season.

Rose-Hulman opens the 2014 baseball season against Coe College on Sunday March 2 as part of the team's Spring Trip to Florida.  The home opener is scheduled for Friday March 14 against Concordia Chicago.