Defending Champion Penn State Berks Ranked No. 1 in NEAC Baseball Preseason Poll

Defending Champion Penn State Berks Ranked No. 1 in NEAC Baseball Preseason Poll

GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – After claiming the last three conference titles, Penn State Berks has landed in the top spot of the 2019 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Baseball Preseason Poll.

With six first-place votes and a total of 76 points, defending champion Penn State Berks has been picked to repeat its success in the preseason rankings. NEAC Coach of the Year Justin Konnick returns for his seventh season with six starters from last year’s team, including two-time NEAC Player of the Year Toby Welk (Downington, Pa.). The Nittany Lions’ third baseman has been named a D3Baseball.com Preseason All-American after dominating the opposition in 2018 with a .492 batting average, 14 doubles, five triples, 13 home runs, 52 runs scored and 57 RBIs. Welk also finished 2018 with a .599 on-base percentage and a 1.025 slugging percentage. Junior shortstop Dante Salerno (Lehighton, Pa.) also returns following an All-Conference First Team selection in 2018 after hitting .447 with 17 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. Mason Pennypacker (Pottstown, Pa.) is also expected to be a key player for the Nittany Lions after finishing last season with a .338 batting average and 20 RBIs. Penn State Berks will prepare for NEAC play with a non-conference slate that includes New England College, Penn State Harrisburg and Moravian College.  

NEAC Runner-Up Penn College received three first-place votes and 71 total points to finish second in this year’s poll. The Wildcats will begin the 2019 season with eight starters and 20 returners from a squad that finished last season with a 20-15 overall record. Junior catcher Brittan Kittle (Millville, Pa.) earned NEAC All-Conference First Team honors in 2018 after boasting a .353 batting average, .529 slugging percentage, four home runs and 33 RBIs. Junior infielder Ben Flicker (Topton, Pa.) is also expected to be a team leader after a .360 batting average and 25 RBIs led to an All-Conference Second Team nod last spring. Senior Devon Sanders (Bloomsburg, Pa.) will be a veteran presence on the mound after going 5-0 in 14 appearances with a 4.26 ERA in 2018. The Wildcats will prepare for another push to the postseason with non-conference games against Catholic University, Mansfield University and Washington College.

Penn State Abington finished in third place with 70 points and the final first-place vote. The Nittany Lions are coming off a 25-13 season that included a 12-4 mark against conference opponents. NEAC Rookie of the Year Ryan McCarty (Yardley, Pa.) leads a group of 17 returners after an outstanding debut season. McCarty played in 38 games in 2018 and finished the year with a .433 batting average, 16 doubles, four home runs, 17 stolen bases and 47 RBIs. He also made 10 pitching appearances for the Nittany Lions and posted a 5-4 record. Junior outfielder Stevie Stevenson (Westhampton, N.J.) also earned all-conference accolades last season with a .327 batting average, 37 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. The Nittany Lions will use non-conference games against the likes of TCNJ, Salisbury University and DeSales University to get ready for conference competition.

Keuka College ranks fourth in the preseason poll with 57 points. The Wolves enter the new season with confidence and an improved squad that includes 10 starters from 2018. Senior Dan Bamann (Rochester, N.Y.) returns after being voted to the NEAC All-Conference Team last season with 10 doubles and 23 RBIs while hitting .352. Senior right-hander Bryan Johnsen (Otisville, N.Y.) is also expected to be a contributor after going 3-1 in eight appearances with a 2.83 ERA in 2018.

Lancaster Bible rounds out the top five in this year’s rankings with 50 points. First-year head coach Frank DiFilippo takes over a Chargers’ team that went 9-7 in conference play. Senior outfielder Will Welsh (Lancaster, Pa.) leads a group of five returning starters after earning All-Conference First Team honors in 2018 with a .444 batting average, .870 slugging percentage, 12 home runs and 45 RBIs.

The full 2019 baseball preseason rankings can be found below:

Rank Institution (First-Place Votes) Total Points
1. Penn State Berks (6) 76
2. Penn College (3) 71
3. Penn State Abington (1) 70
4. Keuka College 57
5. Lancaster Bible 50
6. SUNY Poly 40
7. Wells College 28
8. Gallaudet University 26
9. Cazenovia College 21
10. SUNY Cobleskill 11

The preseason poll rankings were conducted by the NEAC baseball coaches, with each coach ranking all teams but their own using a staggered points system (nine points for a first-place vote, eight points for second, etc.). The 2019 NEAC baseball season is scheduled to being Feb. 16 with a full season schedule being available on the NEAC website.

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The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) has 12 NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Cazenovia College, College of Saint Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University – Abington, Pennsylvania State University – Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, Morrisville State, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and Wells College. Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (W Lacrosse), Hilbert College (M&W Lacrosse), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse), Rutgers University – Camden (M Golf), and Wilson College (M Volleyball). The NEAC has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sport of men’s tennis and with the Colonial State Athletic Conference in the sport of Field Hockey. For more information, please visit: www.neacsports.com.