North Coast Athletic Conference baseball coaches have unanimously selected Wooster as the favorite for the 2017 season based on preseason balloting by the league coaches.
The Fighting Scots, who won the NCAC title a year ago, earned all 10 first-place votes cast by the league coaches for 100 total points. Denison checked in at second with 82 points, while DePauw and Ohio Wesleyan shared the third spot with 73 points each. Allegheny locked down the fifth position with 70 points, followed by Kenyon (42), Wabash (38), Oberlin (36), Wittenberg (23) and Hiram (13).
Wooster, which opens the 2017 campaign ranked 14th in the D3baseball.com Preseason Poll, enters the season with three returning players that garnered All-NCAC first-team honors last year, highlighted by the senior duo of first baseman Jamie Lackner (Westlake, OH/Westlake) and left-handed pitcher Michael Houdek (Cleveland Hts., OH/Cleveland Hts.). Lackner, who is also a two-time All-American selection, finished the 2016 season as the NCAC leader in several different categories, including on-base percentage (.560), hits (74), RBI (54), home runs (7) and walks (44). Lackner's on-base percentage was the third-highest mark in the country, while his hit total ranked 18th among Div. III hitters. On the mound, Houdek is again expected to be the ace of the staff this year after posting a 10-2 record and a 3.14 ERA after allowing 30 earned runs in 86.0 total innings of work last season. Sophomore shortstop Michael Wielansky (St. Louis, MO/Ladue Horton Watkins), who was the 2016 NCAC Newcomer of the Year, rounds out the list of Wooster's All-NCAC first-team performers after he capped a banner rookie season with a school- and NCAC-record 173 assists in the field. He also led the NCAC in numerous different offensive categories, including runs scored (61), home runs (7), total bases (122) and stolen bases (22). Three additional all-conference everyday starters will again be mainstays in the lineup this season, including senior catcher Ryan Ostendorf (West Chester, OH/Lakota West) and the junior outfielder duo of Jake Fling (Norton, OH/Norton) and Drew Tornow (Painesville, OH/Riverside). On the mound, Houdek will again be complemented by the duo of senior left-hander Tyler Schuch (Wooster, OH/Triway) and junior right-hander Nanak Saran (Hudson, OH/Hudson). Wooster will once again be led by head coach Tim Pettorini for the 36th year in a row. Pettorini, who won the 2016 NCAC Coach of the Year award for the 12th time in his career, enters the 2017 season with an overall record of 1,137-426-6, which is the sixth-best win total in Div. III history and the top win total among active coaches.
Wooster leads all NCAC teams with 16 championships in 32 years, which includes winning nine of the last 15 league titles. Ohio Wesleyan (10), Allegheny (4), DePauw (1), Oberlin (1) and Wabash (1) are the other teams to capture a title in conference history. Allegheny and Wooster shared the inaugural crown in the 1985 season.
Founded in 1983, the North Coast Athletic Conference is made up of ten academically selective colleges and universities - Allegheny College, DePauw University, Denison University, Hiram College, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Ohio Wesleyan University, Wabash College, Wittenberg University and the College of Wooster, along with affiliate member, Earlham College (field hockey). The NCAC sponsors 23 championship sports, 11 for men and 12 for women.
2017 North Coast Athletic Conference