With the start of preseason practice for baseball a little more than a month away, Webster University opens the 2019 season ranked 15th in the Preseason NCAA Division III Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll that was released on Wednesday afternoon.
Webster, who finished last season ranked 13th in the final Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Poll after winning a school record 38 games and making its second straight and 12th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, earned 243 points in the preseason poll to sit three points behind No. 14 Oswego State and three points in front of No. 16 Christopher Newport.
With its No. 15 preseason ranking this year, it marks the first time since 2016 that the Gorloks are ranked in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Preseason poll as in 2016, Webster was ranked fifth. Since receiving votes in the preseason poll in both 2011 and 2012, Webster has been ranked in five of the last seven Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason polls.
Webster, who is the only team from the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference either ranked or receiving votes in the preseason poll, welcomes back six position starters, three of its top five pitchers and 22 lettermen from last season's 38-10 squad that captured its 12th consecutive SLIAC regular season championship and ninth all-time SLIAC Tournament title.
Among the key returners for the Gorloks in 2019 is junior first baseman Kyler Kent (Pottsboro, Texas/Pottsboro), junior relief pitcher Shane Donovan (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) and junior starting pitcher Matt Mulhearn (Chicago Heights, Ill./Marian Catholic).
Kent was named a Third-Team Division III ABCA/Rawlings All-American after recording a .428 batting average in 2018. On the season, Kent recorded a single-season school record 83 hits and also scored 44 runs, hit 17 doubles and led the Gorloks in both home runs (6) and RBI (46) and struck just 15 times in 194 at-bats. In addition, Kent was 9-for-12 on the stolen bases and led Webster with 28 multi-hit games, including just the 17th 5-hit game in school history in late April against Iowa Wesleyan. The 83 base hits this season bettered the old single-season mark of 75 set by Tom Henke in 2012. Along with earning All-American honors from the ABCA, Kent was also named a First-Team All-SLIAC performer, a First-Team All-Central Region selection by both the ABCA/Rawlings and D3Baseball.com.
Donovan was named a Third-Team D3Baseball.com All-American a season ago after posting a 6-0 record and a 1.80 ERA during the regular season and closing the 2018 campaign with a team-best 1.72 ERA and a 6-1 record. Along with winning six games, Donovan also set a new Webster single-season record for saves with eight, which is tied for 20th in Division III. In fact, Donovan was one of just 27 Division III relievers that recorded eight or more saves on the year. On the season, Donovan made a team and SLIAC-leading 25 appearances, which is second most in a single season in school history and in those 25 appearances, he tossed 62.2 innings and allowed 49 hits, 13 runs (12 earned runs), while walking 14 and striking out 33. Opposing batters hit just .228 on the year against the righthander. In 15 of his 25 appearances (28 innings of work), Donovan did not allow a run to cross the plate and allowed only two or more runs in a game twice on the season and he earned the win in each of those two games. Along with earning All-American honors from D3Baseball.com, Donovan was also a Third-Team All-SLIAC performer, a First-Team All-Central Region selection by D3Baseball.com and a Second-Team All-Central Region honoree by ABCA/Rawlings.
Mulhearn was a First-Team All-Central Region selection by ABCA/Rawlings last season after serving as the Gorloks' No. 1 starter during the 2018 season. On the season, Mulhearn posted a 10-2 record and a 2.99 ERA. On the season, Mulhearn made 14 appearances, including tying for the team lead in starts with 13 and in a team-leading 84.1 innings of work, the right-hander allowed 78 hits, 30 runs (28 earned runs) while walking 14 and striking out a team-best 76. Opposing hitters batted only .245 on the season against Mulhearn. In the regular season, Mulhearn went 8-2 with a 2.32 ERA and in 73.2 innings of work, he allowed just 21 runs (19 earned runs), while walking just 11 and fanning 67. He tossed one complete game and closed out the year by winning his final five starts of the season and had six or more strikeouts in a game six times, including back-to-back games with 12 and 10 strikeouts against Iowa Wesleyan and Spalding respectively. The 12 strikeouts were a season-high for Gorlok pitcher in 2018. Along with his First-Team ABCA/Rawlings All-Central Region selection, Mulhearn was also named a Second-Team All-SLIAC performer.
The other returning position starters for the Gorloks include sophomore third baseman Ben Swords (Freeport, Ill./Freeport), senior second baseman Danny Strohm (St. Louis, Mo./Greenville University), senior outfielder Nate Tholl(Tinley Park, Ill./John A. Logan CC), junior catcher Joe Swanson (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine West), sophomore shortstop Matt Staker (El Cajon, Calif./Saint Augustine). While the other top returning pitcher is sophomore Sean Beaver (San Diego, Calif./Scripps Ranch).
In the preseason poll, Wooster (Ohio) is the No. 1 ranked team, while Wisconsin-Whitewater is No. 2 and Swarthmore (Pa.) is third. The Top 5 is rounded out by Trinity (Texas) at No. 4 and Misericordia (Pa.) at No. 5. Reigning NCAA Division III National Champion UT-Tyler is not ranked in the preseason poll as they are transitioning to the NCAA Division II level this season, while last year's National Runner-Up Texas Lutheran is ranked sixth in the preseason poll.
Webster is scheduled to play six games this upcoming season against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the Preseason Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll. The Gorloks will probably face several other preseason ranked teams during its Spring Break trip in early March to the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational in Auburndale, Fla. Among the preseason ranked teams Webster is scheduled to face include No. 18 Rhodes College (two games), No. 25 Wabash and No. 8 Concordia-Chicago (two games), while WashU was one of the 40 teams that earned votes in the preseason poll.
The Gorloks, who begin preseason practice on January 29, will open the 2019 season in Memphis, Tenn., on Friday, Feb. 22 against Transylvania University at 10 a.m., while Webster's first home game of the season at GCS Credit Union Ballpark in Sauget, Ill., is scheduled for Friday, March 1 against Buena Vista at 2 p.m.
STORY COURTESY OF WEBSTER UNIVERSITY SPORTS INFORMATION