Marietta College is ranked No. 3 in the D3baseball.com Top 25 preseason poll.
In the NCAA Division III, www.baseballnews.com preseason poll, the two-time defending national champion Pioneers are No. 5.
Wheaton College, the Massachusetts school that the Etta Express (48-8) beat 7-2 in last spring's World Series final at Fox Rivers Stadium in Grande Chute, Wis., is No. 1 in both polls.
Times file photo
Marietta College’s Jordan Grilliot slides home during baseball action at Don Schaly Stadium last spring. The two-time defending national champion Pioneers are scheduled to open up their season against Anderson Monday.
While Brian Brewer is very appreciative of the respect and lofty preseason rankings, the 10th-year MC head baseball coach knows that 2013 is a brand new season, and that's where he's devoted his focus.
"We're in the middle of the biggest two-year turnover in the history of the program," said Brewer, a three-time ABCA/Diamond NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year honoree. "We had eight seniors last year and seven this spring. We lost our pitching staff last year plus middle infield."
Still, with six returning position starters, Marietta is expected to be good again. But how good of course remains to be seen.
Brewer and his staff will know a little bit more about the makeup of the Pioneer ballclub when it opens up the season against Anderson University in a doubleheader at the Athletes In Action diamond in Xenia at noon Monday.
Backing up a little bit, the 2012 MC baseball squad took a graduation hit after repeating as national champs last season. Gone are shortstop Tim Saunders (.441, 5HR, 48 RBI), pitcher Austin Blaski (13-1, 1.23 ERA), pitcher Kyle Lindquist (3-0, 1.37 ERA, 7 saves), pitcher Brian Gasser (11-4, 3.18 ERA), pitcher Mike Mahaffey (7-2, 3.75 ERA), pitcher Logan Lewis (7-0, 1.76 ERA), second baseman Kirby Becker (.343, 22 RBI), and outfielder Niko Stanislav (.236, 6 RBI).
Saunders and Blaski each was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, respectively. And, Lindquist pitched professionally last summer for the Rockford (Ill.) RiverHawks of the Frontier League.
Lindquist is currently on Brewer's coaching staff.
Marietta has one returning starting pitcher in Mike Mulvey (6-0, 2.18 ERA), and the 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior is scheduled to toe the rubber against Anderson.
Letterwinners' Luke Langdon (1-1, 1.42 ERA) and Evan Brockmeier (0-0, 5.51 ERA) can also throw. But Brockmeier (.375, 53 RBI) is being penciled in again as an everyday player at first base.
"We have a very inexperienced group on the mound," Brewer said. "If our young arms can throw strikes, and our young middle infield can hold up we should be fun to watch."
As it looks now, MC's middle infield will be featuring sophomore Ryan Hanahan at short and freshman Tyler Packanik at second. At the hot corner will be Bryan Gregorich (.265, 32 RBI).
Marietta's outfield will include Mitch Geers (.387, 1HR, 27 EBI) in left, Aaron Hooper (.357, 5HR, 64 RBI) in center, and Jordan Grilliot (.291, 2HR, 26 RBI) in right.
The catcher will be Alex Toth (.323, 2HR, 36 RBI) and the designated hitter is Josh Ungerbuehler (.303, 1HR, 12 RBI).
Also on this spring's MC roster is freshman catcher Landon Kern, a former Warren standout.
"With all of the "ifs" out there we still have six returning starters that have had success on the ultimate stage, and we are still Marietta College baseball," Brewer said. "We will play hard, do the little things and compete for the conference championship come May."
NOTES: Marietta College is the owner of six national baseball titles with Brewer guiding the Pioneers to three in the last seven years. The late, legendary Don Schaly coached the other three...MC is one of two NCAA D3 schools to repeat as baseball champions. The other was Glassboro (N.J.) State, now Rowan University, in 1978 and 1979...The Pioneers are scheduled to head south, and play Montclair State in the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla., at 11 a.m. March 11. On that same day at 3 p.m., the Etta Express will also play Wooster...Marietta's home opener against Montclair State at Don Schaly Stadium is slated for 3 p.m. March 22...MC is scheduled to open up Ohio Athletic Conference play on the road at Ohio Northern University at 1 p.m. March 29.