The Gannon baseball team is listed among others receiving votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Atlantic Region preseason rankings released Thursday afternoon. In addition, three Golden Knights were named to the NCBWA All-Atlantic Region preseason teams.
Defending Atlantic Region champion Shippensburg (Pa.) (32-23) is the preseason No. 1, receiving six of the 11 first-place votes. Millersville (Pa.) (40-18), Seton Hill (Pa.) (42-17), Concord (W.Va.) (36-20) and East Stroudsburg (Pa.) (34-18) completed the top five. Seton Hill secured four first-place votes with Millersville capturing the final first-place vote.
Winston-Salem State (N.C.) (39-13), Kutztown (Pa.) (32-16), Slippery Rock (Pa.) (31-21), California (Pa.) (35-18) and Mercyhurst (Pa.) (30-20) rounded out the top 10. Gannon is one of four teams listed among others receiving votes.
Aaron Cox (Dorchester, N.J./Millville) was a two-time selection to the NCBWA Preseason All-Atlantic Region second team as both a starting pitcher and utility player. The 2013 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division Freshman of the Year, Cox earned NCBWA All-Atlantic Region honorable-mention accolades last season. The sophomore right-hander posted a sparkling 7-1 record with a 2.50 ERA in 72 innings. He opened the campaign with six consecutive victories until dropping his first decision during a 3-0 nine-inning loss during the final weekend of the regular season. Cox had a two-hit shutout through eight innings of his only defeat. He struck out a team-high 81 hitters and limited the opposition to a .225 average.
The Dorchester, N.J., native ranked sixth among PSAC pitchers in complete games (6), eighth in opponent batting average, eighth in shutouts (2), eighth in victories, ninth in innings pitched and 10th in ERA. Cox finished 23rd nationally in strikeouts per nine innings (10.13) and 75th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.25).
Jeff Bellanca (Grand Island, N.Y./St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute) andJared Wiesen (Girard, Ohio/Liberty) were named to the NCBWA Preseason All-Atlantic Region honorable-mention team. Bellanca was selected as a first baseman and Wiesen as a third baseman.
Bellanca landed a spot on the Daktronics All-Atlantic Region and All-PSAC Western Division second teams last season with a .325 batting average, a .375 slugging percentage and a .410 on-base percentage. The redshirt junior started 21 games at first base, 10 in right field, five at designated hitter, three in left field and two at catcher. He produced 25 runs, six doubles, 14 RBIs and 10 walks. Defensively, Bellanca made only two errors in 186 fielding opportunities.
The Grand Island, N.Y., native hit .333 (18-54) with runners on base and .333 (11-33) with runners in scoring position. Bellanca had a team-best 12 multiple-hit performances. He went back-to-back games without a hit only four times last season.
Wiesen was named to the All-PSAC Western Division first team during his first season on the collegiate level in 2013. The sophomore third baseman hit .326 with a .363 slugging percentage and a .377 on-base percentage. His numbers included 22 runs, five doubles, 11 RBIs and nine walks in 39 starts.
The Girard, Ohio, native hit .333 (17-51) with runners on base, .355 (11-31) with runners in scoring position and .333 (11-33) with two outs. Along with 12 multiple-hit games, Wiesen recorded a hit during 29 of 39 games.
Gannon opens the 2014 campaign Friday, February 14 with a nine-inning game at Virginia State. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. The two clubs conclude a three-game set Saturday, February 15 with a doubleheader at 12 noon.