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TUCSON, Ariz. – Marietta, the defending national champion, was selected No. 1 in the NCAA Division III Collegiate Baseball preseason poll. The Etta Express defeated Chapman to claim its record fifth national title last May. Chapman is ranked No. 2 in the poll.
Three of the Pioneers’ 2012 opponents are ranked in the preseason poll. Ohio Athletic Conference rival Heidelberg is No. 14, Piedmont is ranked No. 24, and Rowan is No. 27.
Marietta returns 14 letter winners from last year’s 47-4 squad. Leading the way for the Etta Express is senior right-handed pitcher Brian Gasser.
Gasser was 14-1 with a 1.06 ERA a year ago. He was named the Division III Pitcher of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association; Division III Co-Player of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association; Pitcher of the Year by D3baseball.com; and the OAC’s Kent Tekulve Pitcher of the Year.
Marietta also returns senior All-Americans Tim Saunders and Austin Blaski. Saunders, the Pioneers’ shortstop, was the Most Outstanding Player of the OAC Tournament. A right-handed pitcher, Blaski was named the Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA National Championship.
The Etta Express opens the 2012 season March 3-4 with a three-game series at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. The Pioneers spring trip begins with two games at Piedmont in Demorest, Ga. March 9-10 followed by five games in Port Charlotte, Fla. From March 12-15. Two more games March 16-17 at Piedmont on the way home completes the southern swing.
The home opener is slated for March 25 against Montclair State at Don Schaly Stadium. The Pioneers open conference play at home against Ohio Northern on March 31.