FREELAND, Mich.—The Trine baseball team was picked to finish fifth in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association by the conference's coaches in the MIAA preseason baseball poll released Wednesday.
The Thunder received 29 points. Adrian was picked to finish first with Kalamazoo, Hope and Alma following behind.
Trine finished the 2016 season with an 18-21 overall record and was 14-14 against the MIAA. The Thunder ended the season in fifth place in the conference.
The Thunder returns two All-MIAA baseball performers in Colton Conn (Cincinnati, Ohio/Indian Hill) and Drew Palmer (Hartford, Wisc./Hartford Union). Conn earned All-MIAA first-team honors at second base after tying for the team lead in batting average at .371. Conn hit .392 against the MIAA to rank seventh in the conference. He led the team in runs with 30 and had a .441 on-base percentage from his leadoff spot. Palmer was named All-MIAA second team outfield. He tied Conn in batting average to lead the team, and he batted .382 in conference play to rank ninth in the league. Palmer boasted a .586 slugging percentage and added a team-high four home runs.
Jake LaBounty (Avon, Ind./Covenant Christian) and Jacob Heller (Fort Wayne, Ind./Prairie Heights) join Conn in returning to the infield for the Thunder. Heller was third on the team in batting average at .371 and led the team with a .452 on base percentage. LaBounty was fourth on the team in batting at .330 and second in RBIs with 23.
The Thunder will also return its designated hitter in Robert Ross (Valparaiso, Ind./Washington Township). Ross hit .293 and hit one home run for Trine.
Trine returns three of its top pitchers in Ben Wheaton (Kalamazoo, Mich./Hacket Catholic Central), Andy Farrell (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio/St. Vincent St. Mary) and Vinny Slobodecki (Carol Steam, Ill./Glenbard North). Wheaton led the Thunder in wins with four and had a 4.87 ERA. He held his opponents to a .283 batting average. Farrell started eight games for Trine and was second in striking out batters at 28. Slobodecki notched three wins and started nine games.
The Thunder will be looking to get back into the MIAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. Trine will open its season March 11 with a double header at Otterbein. The Thunder will then travel to Auburndale, Fla. for the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational March 13 through 17. Trine opens is home slate on March 21 when it will welcome Ohio Northern to Jannen Field.
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MIAA Preseason Baseball Poll
Place, Team, Points (First-Place votes)
1 Adrian (7) - 7
2 Kalamazoo (1) - 17
3 Hope - 22
4 Alma - 25
5 Trine - 29
6 Calvin - 34
7 Albion - 41
8 Olivet - 49