KANSAS CITY, MO - The NAIA announced the Baseball Preseason Coaches Top 25 on Tuesday, November 6 and the Preseason All-Americans on Wendesday, November 7 and both included the Knights in the list.
The Knights show up in the first poll in the 17th spot for the upcoming 2019 season. The team finished the 2018 season with a record of 45-18 and finished the season in the NAIA Opening Round in California coming to an ending ranking of 18 for the 2018 season. That team finished second in the SSAC and won the SSAC Tournament for the first time in program history. Of the nine position starters, including theDH position, from the 2018 lineup, the Knights return six of the players from that team.
Zach Cornell was named to the NAIA Preseason All-American team after finishing the 2018 season batting .404 with 97 hits in 63 games. He had 12 doubles, 6 home runs, 47 RBI, and 74 Runs scored batting in the 2 and 3 spot in the lineup all year. The Knights outfielder also had an on-base percentage of 0.497 and slugging percentage of 0.529.
Along with Cornell, Trent Nash and Blake Jackson were 2018 NAIA All-American Honorable Mention and will be returning to the lineup this season. Nash is a shortstop who batted .344 and led the team with 15 home runs and 26 doubles while driving in 57 runs and scoring 67 while batting mostly in the leadoff spot and starting all 63 games. Jackson is the returning thirdbaseman who batted .319 starting 61 games with 78 RBI and 12 home runs to go with 17 doubles.
Other returners include outfielder MJ Rookard who batted 0.359 with 7 homers, 41 RBI, and 68 runs scored in 57 games for the Knights. Jacob Durant will be back at secondbase after batting .352 with 2 homers, 2 triples, and 33 runs scored. Durant played in 42 games last season missing 21 games resulting from a hit-by-pitch.
The Knights will have several returning pitchers including Preston Sparks, Logan Carter, Witt Campbell, Chris Cuthrell, Stetson Walker, and Devan Harriman to go with several new arms. Sparks finished last year with a 3.48 ERA and a 4-1 record with 4 saves. Campbell (2016) and Carter (2017) won the Freshman of the Year Award for the SSAC and both will be looking to return to form this season. The team had an ERA of 4.58 last season and opponent batting average of 0.263 for the season and will be looking to improve on those numbers again in 2019.
The Knights open the season for 6 road games this year against Thomas University on January 26-27 then to Keiser University in south Florida on February 2-3. The team will host #6 St. Thomas (Fla) in the first home action of the season on February 8-9.