CARMEL – With winter sports winding down, the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference is looking ahead to the spring sports season. On Tuesday, the HCAC announced the results of its preseason baseball poll.

Reigning league champion Transylvania University was selected to repeated as league champions after leading the poll with seven first-place votes and 97 points. Anderson came in second with 85 points and also received a pair of first-place votes. Franklin College collected the final first-place vote and earned 76 points. Rose-Hulman (71 points) and Hanover (61 points) rounded out the top half of this year's preseason poll.

Manchester was picked eighth after earning 33 points.

Manchester University skipper Rick Espeset will begin his 26th season at the helm of the Spartan program. The all-time winningest coach in school history, Espeset earned his 600th career coaching victory a season ago. Espeset's current win total stands at 609.

Three Spartans were named "Athletes to Watch" by the league office on Tuesday morning. Seniors Carter Hooks (Rochester) and Zach White (Logansport) led the way for Manchester.

Hooks will be one of Manchester's top returning arms this season. The left-hander pitcher struck out 75 batters in 66.0 innings pitched a year ago, while posting an ERA of 4.50.

White hit .310 (44-142) while playing in 40 games last spring. White added 10 doubles and 29 RBI while also scoring 28 times. White also pitched in five games and had a save.

The third Spartan to be named as an "Athlete to Watch" was junior Aidan Stevens (Rensselaer, Ind./Rensselaer Central). Stevens hit .314 last spring before an injury limited him to only 10 appearances. A healthy Stevens will provide a big boost to the Manchester offense this season.

The 2022 season is scheduled to get underway the weekend of February 25. The Spartans will face off against a trio of non-conference opponents in Westfield, Ind. MU will take on North Central on Friday beginning at 4 p.m. to open the year. The opening weekend will conclude with games against Otterbein and Hope on Saturday February 26. This season's schedule also features a trip to Division I Butler on Wednesday March 2. HCAC play is scheduled to begin on Saturday April 2 with a doubleheader at Hanover.