BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – The Urbana University baseball team has been picked to finish sixth in the Mountain East Conference North Division, as reflected in the league’s preseason poll released on Wednesday by MEC headquarters.
Urbana, which went 19-29 last year (13-19 MEC), received 24 points in the league-wide vote by head coaches. UU ended up two points behind fifth-place Wheeling Jesuit and four points shy of fourth-place Fairmont State.
Under newly-appointed head coach Jake Oester, the Blue Knights will rely on 15 returning players this spring. Leading the way are 2016 All-MEC infielders Mickey Barea (.361, 25 RBI), Damario Brown (.331, 2 HR, 34 RBI) and Brent West (.345, 2 HR, 14 2B, 29 RBI).
UU opens the season on Saturday, Feb. 18, with a doubleheader against Lincoln University (Pa.) scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch. The Blue Knights and Lions will play at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia for those two games, as well as a single game the following day at noon.
The Blue Knights will open with 18 consecutive road games. The home opener at UU Baseball Field is slated for Wednesday, March 22, against Findlay.
West Virginia State and Shepherd have been tabbed by the league coaches as the preseason favorites for the 2017 Mountain East Conference baseball season. The Yellow Jackets and Rams have played for the MEC Tournament title in each of the last three seasons.
SU finished atop the poll with 64 points, including nine first-place votes. Notre Dame was picked to finish second in the division with 56 points and the remaining three first-place votes. West Liberty was third (48), followed by Fairmont State (28), Wheeling Jesuit (26) and Urbana (24).
West Virginia State collected 64 points and nine first-place votes to finish atop the South Division poll. Concord was picked to finish seccond with 55 points and two first-place votes. Glenville State had the remaining first-place vote and finished with 40 points, just narrowly ahead of Charleston in fourth with 39 points. West Virginia Wesleyan (31) and UVa-Wise (17) rounded out the poll.
The top three teams from each division will advance to the MEC Tournament from May 11-14 in Beckley, W.Va.