Mount Olive Named Conference Carolinas Baseball Preseason Poll Favorite

High Point, N.C.> Ranked No. 3 in this year’s Collegiate Baseball Division II Top 40 Preseason Poll, Mount Olive hopes to build on a successful 2012 season, which saw the Trojans win their third consecutive Conference Carolinas and regular season championships, earn a No. 1 ranking in the Collegiate Baseball Division II Top 25 and play host to the NCAA II Southeast Regional for the second straight year. The Trojans were 44-10 overall and 21-5 in conference play.

Senior catcher Geno Escalante was a consensus first team All-American 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 three additional All-Conference Carolinas selections: outfielders Will Bynum and Braden Reitano, and third baseman Jermaine Berry.

Mount Olive and the Town of Cary will co-host the NCAA Division II Baseball National Finals for the fifth consecutive year, and have been awarded the National Finals through 2015.

The Belmont Abbey baseball team was picked to finish second in the league after capturing the Western Division Championship in 2012. The Abbey returns All-America reliever Emilio Pagan, who led the league with 13 saves in 13 chances. He is the Abbey’s regular third baseman. The Crusaders also return most of its infield, including catcher Kyle Buchanan, who hit .276 with seven home runs and 41 runs batted in. On the mound, in addition to Pagan, the Crusaders return two of its regular rotation pitchers in Nate Cudney and Cody Stull. 

King enters the season bringing back a wealth of experience from last year’s 30-win squad and continues to reload with quality contributors to both sides of the lineup. The Tornado return all three weekend starters from last year’s staff, led by All-Conference selection Cory Rhodes. He finished second in Conference Carolinas in wins (9) and complete games (7), and third in strikeouts (74). Rhodes will be rejoined by senior Wesley Houser and junior left-hander Reiss Stanley who combined for 13 wins. The staff will be deepened with the return of RHP Alex Martin who missed last season due to injury and went 4-1 in 2011. The bullpen will feature a wealth of competition between its returners and incoming first-year players to improve a relief staff that won seven games and saved six a season ago.


Rounding out the baseball preseason poll 4-9 is:  Erskine, North Greenville, Limestone, Pfeiffer, Coker, and Barton respectively.


Conference Carolinas Pre-Season Coaches Poll

(First place votes in parenthesis)

                  1.               Mount Olive College                                                 (7)                                                 63

                  2.               Belmont Abbey College                                            (1)                                                 54

                  3.               King College                                                                                                                     44

                  4.               Erskine College                                                                                                                42

                  5.               North Greenville University                                     (1)                                                 32

                  6.               Limestone College                                                                                                           31

                  7.               Pfeiffer University                                                                                                           22

                  8.               Coker College                                                                                                                   21

                  9.               Barton College                                                                                                                 15



Conference Carolinas is a NCAA Division II athletic conference currently made up of 12 teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. These institutions consist of: Barton College, Belmont Abbey College, Coker College, Converse College, Erskine College, King College, Lees-McRae College, Limestone College, Mount Olive College, North Greenville University, Pfeiffer University, and Queens University of Charlotte.