BRIDGEPORT -- West Virginia State and Shepherd have been tabbed by the league coaches as the preseason favorites for the 2016 Mountain East Conference baseball season.
The Yellow Jackets are picked to finish first in the South Division, while Shepherd was slotted at the top of the North Division. The two teams played for the MEC Tournament title in 2015 with WVSU winning the championship.
West Virginia State, which also advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year, posted a record of 35-16 in 2015. The Yellow Jackets will be led by outfielder Jamison Jones (.367) and starting pitcher Tyler Hall (5-2, 2.93 ERA), as well as reliever Joshua Falbo (10 saves, 2.20 ERA).
WVSU had 66 points and 11 first-place votes in the South Division, and was followed by Concord with 55 points and one first-place vote. Glenville State (40), West Virginia Wesleyan (36), Charleston (32) and UVa-Wise (17) complete the South Division poll.
Shepherd went 35-9 last year and brings back the MEC Pitcher of the Year and preseason All-American Sam Crater (11-3, 1.71 ERA). Outfielders Jacob Carney (.436) and Jonathan Sarty (.420) also return to bolster the Rams lineup.
The Rams collected 65 points and 10 first-place votes. Notre Dame was picked to finish second with 55 points and one first-place vote, and West Liberty had 47 points and the remaining first-place vote. Wheeling Jesuit (33), Urbana (29) and Fairmont State (17) round out the North Division.
The top three teams from each division will advance to the MEC Tournament from May 12-15 in Beckley, W.Va.
|MEC North Division|
|2.||Notre Dame (1)||55|
|3.||West Liberty (1)||47|
|MEC South Division|
|1.||West Virginia State (11)||66|
|4.||West Virginia Wesleyan||36|