Three Indians Garner Preseason Honors

SALISBURY, N.C. – The pop of a fastball into a catcher’s mitt or the thwack of aluminum bat on ball in the batting cage at Newman Park means Catawba's next spring baseball season is imminent.

Ranked fifth in the 2019 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Preseason Southeast Regional Poll, the storied program opens its 94th season Friday in Boca Raton, Florida. Entering the campaign, Catawba plans to extend its string of 30-win seasons to 20 years.

“Our team is solid defensively and on the mound has much needed depth from a year ago,” Catawba Head Coach Jim Gantt said. “This team has speed with some power in the middle of the lineup.”

The Indians claimed the top perch for seven consecutive seasons in the South Atlantic Conference Preseason Rankings. They collected eight first-place votes and 108 points from the 11 coaches in the league.

"The conference is much stronger this year and I expected Lincoln Memorial to be the preseason favorite along with other schools, but not Catawba," Gantt said. “We embrace the top pick, certainly not afraid of it. The region is extremely good; one of the toughest regions in the country in my opinion.”

Through the completion of last season, Catawba boasts 33 conference championships and a .604 winning percentage (1768-1156) in 93 seasons.

In the 29 years of South Atlantic Conference baseball, the Indians finished in the top three during the regular season 22 times, owns 13 regular season and seven tournament championships. No other team in the league won as many regular season or tournament titles in the history of the conference.

Catawba owns an overall record of 975-518 and 446-204 in league play. The next closest in overall wins is 138 behind and trails in conference wins by 64. Gantt is the winningest coach in SAC history and is 787-408 in 1195 games.

Heath Mitchem, Catawba’s senior designated hitter, garnered NCBWA Preseason All-Southeast Region First Team and All-SAC First Team honors. Indians’ third baseman Jackson Raper and pitcher DJ Laxton joined Mitchem on the All-SAC First Team.

“Heath Mitchem is a really good hitter with surprising speed, Gantt said. “Jackson Raper will play third base and can carry our offense from time to time.

DJ Laxton will be called on out of the pen frequently and add depth behind the plate,” he said.

The season kicks-off at 2:30 p.m. Friday in Boca Raton, Florida against the Fighting Knights of Lynn University. Both schools garnered votes in the Collegiate Baseball Division II Preseason Poll.

Catawba’s four-game road trip to the Sunshine State continues Saturday in Davie, Florida against Nova Southeastern at noon. The Sharks rank 20th in the Collegiate Baseball Division II Preseason Poll.

The final two games are in West Palm Beach, Florida against Palm Beach Atlantic at 1 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. Monday.

Mount Olive kicks-off the home slate Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 2 p.m. The Collegiate Baseball Division II Preseason Poll ranked the Trojans 19th.

NCBWA Southeast Region Preseason Top 10 – Jan. 23, 2019

Rank Team (1st place) 2018 Record Points
1 Columbus State (8) 48-15 104
2 North Greenville (2) 46-10 95
3 Georgia College (1) 44-12 87
4 Mount Olive 36-14-1 75
5 Catawba 30-24 57
6 Belmont Abbey 40-14 50
7 UNC Pembroke 39-15 38
8 Wingate 34-19 33
9 Lincoln Memorial 36-21 32
10 USC Aiken 35-19 27

NCBWA Preseason All-Southeast Region Teams

First Team
1B – Dillon Carpenter, Anderson
2B – Daulton Martin, Tusculum
3B – Chase Allen, Limestone
SS – Tyler Adams, Lincoln Memorial
C – Matt Honeycutt, Mars Hill
OF – Luke Jackson, UNC Pembroke
OF – Wesley Wommack, Georgia College
OF – Danton Hyman, Newberry
UT – Nate Estes, Mount Olive
DH - Heath Mitchem, Catawba
SP – Kolton Ingram, Columbus State
SP – Tucker Burgess, North Greenville
SP – Ethan Elliott, Lincoln Memorial
RP – Parker Morrison, North Georgia

Second Team
1B – Alex Reynolds, Lenoir-Rhyne
2B – Seth Hartings, UNC Pembroke
3B – Garrett Green, Georgia College
SS – Colin Allman, Newberry
C – Andres Perez, North Georgia
OF – Jeffrey Chandler, North Greenville
OF – Jarel McDade, Tusculum
OF – Chandler Castleberry, Anderson
UT – Drew Yniesta, Erskine
DH - Connor Grainger, UNC Pembroke
SP – Austin Turgeon, Wingate
SP – John Grigg, Lenoir-Rhyne
SP – Ethan Garner, North Greenville
RP – Bradley Cammack, Georgia College

2019 SAC Baseball Preseason Coaches' Poll

Rank School Points (1st Place Votes)
1 Catawba 108 (8)
2 Lincoln Memorial 97 (3)
3 Wingate 93
4 Carson-Newman 78
5 Newberry 70
6 Lenoir-Rhyne 68
7 Tusculum 65
8 Anderson 47
9 Mars Hill 36
10 Coker 30
11 Queens 23

2019 SAC Baseball Preseason All-Conference All-SAC

First Team
OF – Danton Hyman, Newberry
OF – Chandler Castleberry, Anderson
OF – Jarel McDade, Tusculum
1B – Dillon Carpenter, Anderson
2B – Daulton Martin, Tusculum
SS – Colin Allman, Newberry
3B – Jackson Raper, Catawba
C – Matt Honeycutt, Mars Hill
DH – Heath Mitchem, Catawba
SP – Ethan Elliott, Lincoln Memorial
SP – John Grigg, Lenoir-Rhyne
SP – Austin Turgeon, Wingate
RP – DJ Laxton, Catawba

All-SAC Second Team
OF – Seth Hunt, Lincoln Memorial
OF – Will Reddick, Lincoln Memorial
OF – Tanner Lane, Newberry
1B – Alex Reynolds, Lenoir-Rhyne
2B – McCann Mellett, Wingate
SS – Tyler Adams, Lincoln Memorial
3B – Tyler Schneider, Wingate
C – Ethan Goforth, Carson-Newman
SP – Joe Bobiak, Lincoln Memorial
SP – Charles Hall, Tusculum
SP – Ryan Harbin, Newberry
RP – Charlie Fessler, Newberry

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