Cumberland is ranked seventh in the NAIA Baseball Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll, as announced by the national office Tuesday. The Bulldogs were picked first in a vote of league coaches in the 2012 TranSouth Conference Baseball Preseason Poll released this week by the league office.
The Bulldogs finished the 2011 regular season ranked fifth before falling one game short of the NAIA World Series, falling to Tennessee Wesleyan in Paducah, Ky., in the NAIA Championship Opening Round. CU returns three starters and six pitchers from last years 46-16 club, including Second Team All-American and Preseason First Team All-American Mike Mandarino.
Mandarino batted .370 with 19 doubles, 18 home runs and 66 RBIs in 61 contests for the Bulldogs. The Massapequa, N.Y., native also posted a 5-3 record on the mound in 11 games, all starts, with a 4.37 earned-run-average and 35 strikeouts in 47.1 innings of work.
Outfielders Richie Seaton and Antonio Butler also return along with hurlers Keith Kirby, Devin Stovall, Matt McFarland, Cody Ferrell, Christian Jennings and Logan Neal.
Kirby posted a 4-4 mark with a 2.54 ERA in 49.2 innings of work, striking out 32 and posting three saves in 14 appearances. Stovall collected a 3-1 record in 10 games with three starts and one save, tossing 25.0 innings with 29 strikeouts.
Cumberland has won the last three regular season conference championships, including last years 20-4 mark. The Bulldogs also won the TranSouth regular season title in 2006 and have claimed conference tournament titles in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Union University picked up the three other first-place votes and ranked second in the preseason poll, with Martin Methodist and Bethel University third and fourth, respectively, and separated by just one point. Freed-Hardeman, Mid-Continent, Lyon College and Blue Mountain rounded out the poll.
Cumberland opens the 2012 season on February 3-4 at Brewton-Parker College in Georgia.