KINGS POINT, N.Y. - The United States Merchant Marine Academy baseball team has been ranked fifth in the 2012 Landmark Conference Preseason Poll. Moravian College and Catholic University tied for the first-place honors, followed by the University of Scranton and Susquehanna University. Juniata College finished one point behind the Mariners while Drew University rounded out the poll. The seven head baseball coaches and sports information directors at each institution that sponsor the sport were polled for the preseason ballot.
Catholic and Moravian each earned 58 points in the voting and were the only two teams to earn first-place votes. The voting was also tight at the next two positions with The University of Scranton earning 41 points to place third, just six points in front of Susquehanna University.
Catholic captured its third Landmark title after finishing 11-7 in conference play during the regular season and then won its opening game of the NCAA Tournament. Four of the team's five All-Conference players return this season led by multi-time All-Conference infielder Tim Mierzwa and overall 29 players return.
Moravian has finished atop the regular season standings the past two seasons, and won a program-record 31 games last year and going 17-1 in conference. All-American Brendan Close returns to anchor the pitching staff that has three returning All-Conference performer while the team brings back 23 players overall.
Scranton reached the title game of the Landmark postseason a year ago, while finishing 24-18 overall. The team graduated a trio of All-Conference selections, but have ace pitcher Rocky Sawyer among the 23 returnees and will also be bolstered by the addition of an 18-player freshman class.
Susquehanna made a fourth-consecutive Landmark postseason appearance in 2012, finishing at 8-10 in conference play. First-team All-Conference picks Ethan Rieker and Dan Wing are two of 24 returnees for the Crusaders who lost just six players to graduation and have four All-Conference players back overall.
The United States Merchant Marine Academy sits in fifth in the voting with 24 points after missing the postseason by one spot last year. The Mariners had only one senior on the squad that went 6-11-1 in conference play last year, and Landmark Rookie of the Year Warren Hartmann leads 19 returnees.
Juniata College is one point behind USMMA with 23 points to place sixth. First-year Head Coach Jesse Leonard inherits a team that graduated the Landmark Player of the Year but returns 20 players from a season ago, including All-Conference hurler Matt Regan.
Drew University also has a new head coach and sits seventh in the voting with 13 points. Brian Hirschberg takes over a team that won 13 games overall last season. Among the 20 returnees, Tom Koontz and Alex Taylor return to anchor the pitching staff, and the team has added 11 incoming freshmen.
One Landmark team has begun competition already in 2012 and the remaining six will be underway by early March. The first weekend of Landmark competition, which features three-game series, takes place March 17-18 with poll leaders Moravian hosting Catholic, Juniata traveling to Scranton, and Susquehanna hosting USMMA.