Mesa baseball ranked No. 20 in preseason

Colorado Mesa University will begin the 2013 baseball season where it was most of the year in 2012.

The Mavericks are ranked 20th in the recently released Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Division II preseason poll.

“We enjoy the preseason publicity,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “I think it’s warranted. It’s an incentive for us to move up. It also makes you a marked team.”

Colorado Mesa players report Jan. 9, the first practice is Jan. 10, and the Mavericks open the season with a three-game series beginning Feb. 1 at No. 23 University of California-San Diego.

Mesa (39-16) won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference regular-season title last season and made its fourth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Mavericks reached the Division II World Series in 2009.

Mesa returns a majority of its players from last season, but it did lose 10 players from the 2012 squad, including All-American outfielder Jeff Popick, who is playing in the Colorado Rockies organization. The Mavericks lost two starting pitchers and a closer.

Senior pitcher Matt Williams, who transferred to Mesa last year, is eligible to pitch this spring after the NCAA required him to sit out last season. The right-hander is a transfer from the University of Tampa (Fla.) and Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, whom he pitched for in the 2010 JUCO World Series.

Hanks added four more junior college pitchers to go with returning starters Nolan Snell and Garrett Carpenter.

Snell, who had a shoulder injury in his pitching arm late last season, started throwing in November and had no setbacks going into the Christmas break, Hanks said.

Mesa will see a new team in the RMAC this year as Adams State University added baseball.

The Mavericks and the rest of the RMAC will have to go through a new region to advance to the World Series. The RMAC is in the South Central Region with schools in the Heartland Conference and the Lone Star Conference.

“It will be interesting,” Hanks said. “Texas is obviously a good baseball area. I heard they generally have good pitching. No matter what region we’re in, all the teams selected for the NCAA tournament are good teams. We’ll have to play our best and get timely hits (to advance to the World Series).”

Mesa is one of five teams in the South Central Region ranked in the top 40. The others are 
No. 5 St. Mary’s (Texas), No. 29 St. Edward’s (Texas), No. 35 Angelo State (Texas), and No. 39 New Mexico Highlands, an RMAC rival. Texas A&M-Kingsville also received some votes. St. Mary’s qualified for the NCAA World Series last spring.

Defending national champion West Chester (Pa.) University is ranked No. 1. Runner-up Delta State (Miss.) is No. 2, Mount Olive (N.C.) is No. 3, and Central Missouri is No. 4.


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