CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - The Army baseball team was picked first in the Patriot League preseason poll which was released on Wednesday. The Black Knights earned five first-place votes and finished tied with Holy Cross atop the preseason listing, which was compiled by a vote of the league's head coaches and sports information directors.
Army and Holy Cross, whom Army defeated in three games to claim the 2012 Patriot League tournament championship, both accumulated 45 points to tie for first in the preseason poll. The Crusaders collected six first-place votes.
Navy (32 points) was picked third, followed by Bucknell (29). The Bison picked up the last remaining first-place vote. Lafayette (15) and Lehigh (14) rounded out the poll, placing fifth and sixth, respectively.
The Black Knights, who have won six regular-season conference titles in the past nine years and five tournament championships in the last 13 years, return 16 letterwinners from last season's club, which established 45 school records.
Army cruised to last year's regular-season title, posting an 18-2 conference record. The Black Knights established Patriot League records for conference wins (18) and consecutive conference victories (17) en route to sweeping the loop's major awards at the conclusion of the campaign.
Senior RHP Chris Rowley, who headlines Army's crop of returnees on the mound, was named the Patriot League Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Rowley, who was tabbed Patriot League Pitcher of the Year following his record-setting 2012 season, is a six-time All-American. Last year, he shattered a plethora of program single-season records, including wins (11), shutouts (five), consecutive scoreless innings (29) and innings pitched (97.1).
Rowley was one of two Black Knights to earn a spot on the inaugural Preseason All-Patriot League Team, joining sophomore DH Mark McCants. McCants was named to the all-conference first team last spring after ranking among the team leaders with two home runs and 28 RBI.
The Black Knights begin their 2013 campaign this weekend with a three-game series at UNC Greensboro. The season-opening set begins on Friday, Feb. 15, at 4 p.m.
Army opens its Patriot League schedule at home versus Navy on March 31 and April 1. The Black Knights then travel to Pennsylvania to play Lehigh (April 6-7), Lafayette (April 13-14) and Bucknell (April 20-21), before finishing the season with a home series against Holy Cross (April 27-28).
For the sixth straight season, the top four teams listed in the final Patriot League regular-season standings will square off in separate best-of-three Patriot League Tournament semifinal series (No. 1 vs. No. 4; No. 2 vs. No. 3) at the home of the highest seeds (May 11-12). The winners of those series will battle the following weekend (May 18-19) in a best-of-three Patriot League Championship Series at the home of the highest remaining seed. The winner of the PLCS will advance to the NCAA Regionals as the Patriot League's automatic qualifier.
2013 PATRIOT LEAGUE PRESEASON BASEBALL POLL
Rank, Team, Points
1. ARMY (5), 45
1. Holy Cross (6), 45
3. Navy, 32
4. Bucknell (1), 29
5. Lafayette, 15
6. Lehigh, 14
2013 PRESEASON ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE TEAM
SP: CHRIS ROWLEY, ARMY (SR.)
SP: Ben Nelson, Navy (Sr.)
RP: John Colella, Holy Cross (Sr.)
C: Joe Abeln, Lehigh (Jr.)
1B: Jordan Enos, Holy Cross (Sr.)
2B: Kevin Casey, Lafayette (Sr.)
SS: Alexis Maldonado, Holy Cross (Sr.)
3B: Mike Ahmed, Holy Cross (Jr.)
OF: Brandon Cipolla, Holy Cross (Jr.)
OF: Greg Dupell, Navy (Sr.)
OF: Patrick Puentes, Holy Cross (Sr.)
DH: MARK MCCANTS, ARMY (SO.)
Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year: Mike Ahmed, Holy Cross (Jr., 3B)
Patriot League Preseason Pitcher of the Year: CHRIS ROWLEY, ARMY (SR., SP)