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Transylvania baseball opens season Saturday ranked No. 4 in HCAC preseason poll

In a conference that typically sports nationally ranked competitors, the Transylvania Pioneer baseball team is ready to combine experience with newly-added depth to make a strong run for a conference title.


Their potential was acknowledged by their conference competitors this season, as the Pioneers received a fourth-place ranking in the 2014 HCAC Baseball Coaches Pre-season Poll.


Pioneer Head Coach Chris Campbell returns for his eighth season at his alma mater and he has his team in good position to challenge for the Heartland Athletic Conference championship.


Transylvania finished the 2013 campaign with an overall record of 20-18. The Pioneers finished fifth out of the 10 teams in the HCAC. Last year’s roster included talented players who return for the new season.


One of the goals for Campbell’s club in 2014 is to win a HCAC championship.


“Our older guys have been paramount in making it clear what they want to do,” Campbell said.


The leadership and work ethic of this year’s club coupled with the returning experience is likely to lead to success for the Pioneers in 2014.


“The core of our team is basically intact from a year ago,” Campbell said. “These seniors bring in a solid work effort and all have had significant experience. They will lead us in 2014.”


Nine members of last year’s squad were recognized by the HCAC for their performances on the diamond. Seven of the eight Pioneers return for the 2014 season.


Pitcher Elliott Desilets earned second team All-HCAC honors in his final season as a Pioneer. Desilets is the only letterman lost from last season.


He appeared in 17 games and earned nine saves in 2013.The closer recorded 21 strikeouts and allowed a mere 22 hits in 17 1/3 innings on the mound.


Seniors Sam Liggett and Shelby Dixon will also provide valuable experience. Liggett started all 36 games for the Pioneers last season. The Ft. Thomas, Ky. native hit .275 and had a team-high two homeruns in his junior season.


Dixon started nine games and posted a 5-2 record in 2013. In his 15 appearances, Dixon logged 62 innings of work and posted a 2.47 ERA.


Junior third baseman Nick Edwards was named second team All-HCAC. Edwards led the team in batting average (.340) and hits (52).

Senior outfielder Zach Bynum was named All-HCAC honorable mention. Bynum hit .297 and drove in 13 runs in his junior season. Junior pitcher Jamie King and sophomore pitcher Matt Birkenhauer also received All-HCAC honorable mention.


Junior infielder Hunter Voshell was selected as a member of the All-HCAC Sportsmanship Team. Voshell started 33 games and hit .258 in his sophomore campaign.


Transylvania will have additional talents in its newcomers this season. Campbell suggested the number of first year players on his roster typically makes for an unsettling feeling.


However, that is not the case for this year’s newcomers.


“We have an amazing group of young guys that will bring skill and a certain sense of maturity to the program,” Campbell said. “I usually don’t see that out of first year guys.”


Newcomers have also added depth to the pitching staff. Sophomore transfer Dalton Collett and freshmen Adam Boone, Braden Johnson, Tom Banahan, Zach Patton and James Long will all contribute.


Several newcomers will compete for time and add depth in the infield. Freshmen Brad Seahorn, Chris Baltes, Aaron Johnson, CJ Burk, Bryce Crader and Ryan Bale will all contribute to a talented defensive group. Crader and Bale will also see time on the mound in 2014.


First year outfielders include sophomore Trey Simpson and freshmen Connor Blevins, Spencer Miller and Michael Owens. Transfer Kody Ross has impressed the coaching staff and is expected to contribute both in the outfield and infield.


The primary duties behind the plate will be in the hands of veteran Liggett. Freshmen Gage Beavers and Clay Barton will also press for time at the position.


Along with the talent, Campbell said he is confident in his team’s off-season training program. He said his team is not afraid to work on its own. Campbell’s squad dedicated much time and effort to strength training during the off season.


“Our preparation has been focused and upbeat,” Campbell said. “We’ve utilized all the facilities we have available to us during the winter in order to be ready for the season.”


Endurance will be a likely factor in the upcoming season. The Pioneers have 31 scheduled games for 2014, with 10 scheduled double-headers. Twenty five of the thirty one games are HCAC games.


“I believe the pieces are in place to have an outstanding 2014 season,” Campbell said.


The Pioneers will spend the first week of the season on the road, before hosting their first home event.


Transylvania kicks off the 2014 campaign on Saturday, Feb. 22 at Maryville College. Opening day at the Pioneers’ Marquard Field is scheduled for March 1 in a Saturday double-header against non-conference opponent Baldwin Wallace. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.


From Transylvania Athletics.

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