ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Penn State Altoona baseball was voted into third place in the 2018 Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, which was released on Wednesday afternoon.
The Lions' third place selection in this year's AMCC Preseason Poll is the team's highest finish in the poll since the 2012 season, when Penn State Altoona came in third place in that spring's poll.
La Roche College, the five-time defending AMCC champion, was predicted to again finish atop the conference this season by the league's coaches. Penn State Behrend was voted into second place after finishing as the conference's runner-up last season.
Penn State Altoona baseball took a big step forward last season in its quest to get the program back on a winning track. The Lions went 19-21 overall, with the team's 19 wins representing its best overall win total since the 2011 season. They also went 9-7 in the AMCC, the squad's best conference record since 2012.
After finishing in fourth place in the AMCC standings last season and securing their first conference tournament berth since 2013, the Lions hope to take another step forward this season. Second-year head coach RJ Barnard's roster features a majority of talented and experienced returners who are expected to form the foundation of the program for the next several years.
Named as "Players to Watch" in the 2018 AMCC Preseason Poll were senior outfielder Jim Shomberg (Lansdale, PA/Methacton) and sophomore shortstop Hunter Breon (Boiling Springs, PA/Boiling Springs).
After being named a 2017 D3baseball.com Preseason All-American honorable mention pick, Shomberg's junior season was derailed early in the Lions' AMCC schedule when he suffered a season-ending injury. In 19 games last spring, Shomberg hit .391 with 11 runs batted in, eight runs scored, five doubles, and one triple. Now healthy, the senior left-handed batter will look to return to the form he displayed in the 2016 season, when he finished sixth in NCAA Division III baseball with a .463 batting average to go along with 24 RBI and 16 extra-base hits.
Breon emerged as one of the region's top freshmen last season, and he was recognized for his first-year success by being voted the Eastern College Athletic Conference's Division III South Region Rookie of the Year, the AMCC's Newcomer of the Year, and second team All-AMCC. The right-handed batting shortstop started all 40 games for the Lions and led his team in batting average (.338), slugging percentage (.470), runs scored (30), hits (51), RBI (25), doubles (11), total bases (71), and stolen bases (10). Additionally, Breon made six relief apperances on the mound for Penn State Altoona, going 1-0 with a 3.86 earned run average and a team-high three saves.
Penn State Altoona baseball opens its regular season schedule on Sunday, February 18 at 12:00 p.m. when it travels to face non-conference opponent Eastern Mennonite University for a doubleheader.