High Point, NC – Conference Carolinas announced the 2019 preseason poll on January 22 with the North Greenville Crusaders leading the pack.
The North Greenville Crusaders picked up the first place slot in the preseason poll with 90 points and nine first place finish votes. The Crusaders finished the 2018 year with an overall record of 46-10 and went 21-3 in Conference Carolinas action. Advancing to the Conference Carolinas Championship Tournament, the Crusaders defeated Limestone 12-7, Erskine 7-0 and King 20-1 to move on to the championship game. In the championship game against Mount Olive, North Greenville came out on top 7-2. They advanced to the NCAA Southeast Regional game where they went 2-2 to conclude their 2018 season.
Coming in second in the preseason poll, the University of Mount Olive Trojans picked up 80 points and one first place finish vote. The Trojans went 36-14 overall and 19-5 in Conference Carolinas action last season. They advanced to the Conference Carolinas Tournament where they went 3-1 to advance to the championship game against North Greenville. However, the Crusaders bested the Trojans in the championship game in a 7-2 final score. Following the Trojans in third in the preseason poll, the Belmont Abbey Crusaders picked up 76 points. Belmont Abbey went 40-14 and were 18-5 in Conference Carolinas play last season. The Crusaders went 1-2 in the Conference Carolinas tournament, but picked up a bid to the NCAA Southeast Regional. In the NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament, the Crusaders defeated Wingate 5-4, Lincoln Memorial 15-3 and Columbus State 7-3 to advance to the championship round. However they fell to Columbus State 5-0 and 10-7 to conclude their 2018 campaign.
The Erskine Flying Fleet picked up the fourth slot in the preseason poll with 59 points. The Flying Fleet went 26-25 and were 11-12 in Conference Carolinas play last season. Erskine advanced to the Conference Carolinas Tournament, but fell to Belmont Abbey 10-7 and North Greenville 7-0 to end their season. Following the Flying Fleet, the Limestone Saints are sitting in fifth in the Conference Carolinas preseason poll with 58 points. The Saints wrapped up the 2018 season with a 20-29 overall record and 10-14 Conference Carolinas record. Limestone was the sixth team to advance to the Conference Carolinas tournament, but fell to North Greenville 12-7 and Mount Olive 4-1 to conclude their 2018 year.
The King Tornado took sixth in the preseason poll with 55 points. Last season, the Tornado went 29-19 and were 10-12 in Conference Carolinas. They advanced to the postseason tournament, defeated Mount Olive 14-1 and Belmont Abbey 16-14 before falling to the North Greenville Crusaders and Mount Olive Trojans in their final two games. The Barton Bulldogs followed the King Tornado in the preseason poll with 43 points. The Bulldogs went 12-36 last season while going 4-19 in Conference Carolinas action.
Wrapping up the field for the 2019 year, the Emmanuel Lions took eighth in their first season of post-season eligibility in Conference Carolinas play. The Lions went 24-26 last season and were 9-14 in Conference Carolinas action. They are followed by the Chowan Hawks, who are entering their first season of Conference Carolinas baseball action, with 26 points. The Hawks went 21-18-1 last season. Southern Wesleyan followed the Hawks in the poll with 25 points. The Warriors concluded the 2018 campaign with a 17-32 record and were 3-21 in Conference Carolinas play.
"The pre-season poll does not come as a surprise to our program," said Head Coach Mike Gillespie. "We have consistently discussed how the culture of our program has pushed the bar to a new level within the NCAA in academics, community involvement and the personal development of each young man. We will continue to raise the bar in these areas and seek consistent success on the field. This team is intent on creating a strong culture with these values as our foundation while establishing a winning tradition within the conference."
Last season, the Warriors posted a team batting average of .273. The Warriors recorded 44 home runs last season as a team and had 82 doubles and five triples. Returning for the Warriors is the leader in home runs from last season, Quinton Bent. Bent posted 10 home runs and 15 doubles last season while driving in 45 runs. He is joined by the second highest home run hitter for the team, Julio Justo. The senior from the Dominican Republic returns to the Warriors after posting eight home runs and six doubles last season. The Warriors bring back Devin Patrick and Conner Ewing who were the fourth and fifth highest home run hitters last season. Patrick and Ewing went on to be two of the leaders in base on balls last season.
Southern Wesleyan returns three of their top four pitchers in strikeouts. Senior Josh Core pitched 46.2 innings while striking out 53 batters last season. Core was followed by returning sophomores TJ McEvilly and Vinny Adams. McEvilly went 5-4 last season while pitching 57.2 innings and striking out 39 batters. Adams went 3-1 over 33.2 innings pitched and striking out 32.
The Warriors will kick off the season on the road as they travel to Florence, SC to take on the Claflin Panthers and the Francis Marion Patriots on February 1 and 2. They will host their home opener on February 13 against the Mars Hill Lions at 4 p.m. Southern Wesleyan will host the first Conference Carolinas against the Emmanuel Lions on February 22-23. The February 23 games against the Lions will be the annual Military Appreciation Day for the Warriors. Senior Night will be held on April 12 prior to first pitch against the Limestone Saints. The Warriors will continue Alumni Weekend events on April 13 as they host the annual Daniel's Day event prior to first pitch at 1 p.m.