Freeland, Mich. – The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association released its 2019 Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll today (Feb. 8) and the Alma College Scots are voted to finish fourth in the eight member conference this season. Alma finished behind defending champion Adrian College as well as Hope College and Kalamazoo College.
The Scots come into this season with a new head coach in Jason Crain. The graduate of Alma in 1995 served the same position at Plymouth High School, a Division 1 program, where he won four straight district titles from 2015-2018. Crain also won two division championships and one conference championship. Crain brings with him, Scott Niemiec, who was the assistant coach at Plymouth for the past five years. Also serving as assistants will be former Scot baseball players, Eric Frontzak and Gregg Hartman.
"We are very excited to get out on the field and compete after an off season of hard work and preparation. While rankings are exciting and gives the opinion of coaches, we know that the MIAA is full of talented, well coached baseball programs that will be a difficult test. We are excited to put our well tested team to work later this month." - Head Coach Jason Crain
Alma will look to take the next step after last year where they finished second in the MIAA with a 16-12 regular season conference record. The Scots won their first game of the conference tournament but lost in the next two, ending their season with an overall record of 24-19. The team was one victory away from reaching the MIAA championship.
In all, 19 players return from last year's team. At the plate, the Scots bring back a number of key hitters. Junior Max Trucks (Mt. Pleasant, Mich. / Mt. Pleasant) had 36 runs batted in, which was third most in the MIAA. The lefty also tied for the most runs scored on the Scots with junior Pete Carravallah (Canton, Mich. / Plymouth) who ranked second on the team with a .317 batting average. Alma's 2018 hits leader, junior Logan Huff (Johannesburg, Mich. / Johannesburg-Lewiston) comes off his sophomore season where he held a .344 batting average and was named the All-MIAA Second Team Third Baseman.
On the mound, junior Dylan Dzendzel (Royal Oak, Mich. / Royal Oak) leads a pitching staff following his solid sophomore campaign. In 13 appearances and 11 starts, the southpaw had the fifth best ERA (3.47) in the conference while leading the Scots in strikeouts (59) in 59.2 innings pitched. Senior Joseph Barrons (Kingston, Mich. / Kingston) returns for his second and final season with the program. The right-hander started 10 games for 59 innings and only gave up 12 walks while racking up 40 ks. Sophomore Carson Kempa (North Branch, Mich. / North Branch) made a team-high 13 appearances in his rookie season and also locked down two saves for the Scots.
Plenty of speed comes back for Alma as well with Huff and Carravallah being the top two guys in stolen bases last year for the Scots. Huff ranked eighth in the MIAA with eight while Caravallah was just behind him with seven. Alma will look to stay strong defensively after leading the conference in assists last season.
The campaign begins with six games in six days at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational starting on Sunday, February 24. Conference play begins with the Scots home opener on Saturday, March 23 for a doubleheader with Adrian. The regular season will conclude on Saturday, May. 4 with a home twin bill against Calvin College.
MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Adrian - 7 points (7 first-place votes)
2. Hope - 14 points (1 first-place vote)
3. Kalamazoo - 22 points
4. Alma - 31 points
5. Trine - 32 points
6. Calvin - 34 points
7. Albion - 40 points
8. Olivet - 48 points